The authorities had the Lien Tri temple in their crosshairs for two years. Their goal is to seize Buddhist and Christian places of worship to make room for a large development project. Police surrounded the pagoda and forced Christians to stay at home to prevent them from coming to the aid of the Buddhists. Two churches are at risk of demolition.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/RFA) – Vietnamese authorities yesterday raided at a Buddhist pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, evicting the monks and taking possession of the property. Police surrounded the building, preventing monks’ supporters from approaching.
Lien Tri pagoda belongs to the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which is not recognised by Vietnamese authorities, and is located in the south of the city.
Abbot Thich Khong Tanh was sent to the hospital because of poor health. “I was very tired, so they sent me to the hospital in district two for an intravenous transfusion,” he said.
Besides serving as a place of worship, the pagoda shelters many rights activists and victims of government injustice.
District officials began threatening to close the Lien Tri Pagoda in August 2014 to exploit the area’s economic potential. On that occasion the monks received a notification followed by real threats.
At the time, the authorities had offered to pay the equivalent of US$ 274,000 in compensation for the pagoda and its land, but the monks refused. On Monday, the pagoda received a warning letter.
The authorities also plan to demolish two Christian churches.
In the district, police also blocked Christians, fearing they would interfere with the evictions at Lien Tri Pagoda.
Fr Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, a priest at the Roman Catholic Redemptorist Church in Ho Chi Minh City, said that agents followed church members early Thursday morning as they were going to Mass.
“When we got home, they had set up checkpoints outside our houses,” he said. “Maybe they thought that we would go to Lien Tri Pagoda to interfere their eviction, but we did not intend to do it.”
Christians, Thanh said, “have already condemned the eviction because it is illegal according to Vietnamese law, let alone international law”.
Authorities have selected the Thu Thiem area of Ho Chi Minh City as the site of a “new urban area” with zones created for commercial, residential, administrative, entertainment, and educational purposes.
The plan does not include temples, churches, or offices for charity services.