Fr Tân’s brave protest goes viral (video)
by J.B. An Dang

Thọ Hòa’s parish priest protested in front of Biên Hòa prison to demand the immediate release of a woman been missing for more than ten days. Phạm Ngọc Hạnh, a mother of five, took part in a peaceful protest against laws on cybersecurity and special administrative and economic zones. The authorities have kept the priest under their watchful eye because of his support for democracy and freedom.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Fr Nguyễn Duy Tân’s proetst "is the beautiful image of a brave pastor who dares to take care of his flock,” said Fr Paul Van Chi Chu, spokesman for the Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media Federation after a video of the clergyman went viral on the Internet.

In it, the priest wearing his cassock is seen demanding the release of one of her parishioners held by police. The police officers also seem shocked by his courage.

Despite fears about the ongoing brutal repression sweeping over Vietnamese society, Fr Tân, parish priest at Thọ Hòa (ding Nai province), went to the Biên Hòa police prison (30 km north of Sàigòn) on 19 June to demand the immediate release of Phạm Ngọc Hạnh who has been missing for more than ten days.

The last time the mother of five children was seen in public was on 10 June when she took part in a peaceful protest in the central park of Nng Nai. A video shows her being beaten and dragged by a group of men in plain clothes. Since then no one has heard about or from her.

The parish priest accuses the police of brutality and of arresting a peaceful woman, who only wanted to express her disagreement with the new laws on cybersecurity and the new special administrative and economic zones.

For millions of Vietnamese, the latter means selling out to China. Thousands of people across the country have been arrested after the 16 June protests as the communist authorities enforce strict censorship unwilling to tolerate any criticism.

Fr Tân’s protest was unsuccessful and drew criticism from the state media. However, Fr Paul Van Chi Chu expressed appreciation for the courage shown "in one of the most difficult moments in the nation’s history."

Fr Tân, 50, has been the victim of repression before. Public security agents stopped him at Tân S Nn Nhất Airport two weeks before his protest as he was boarding a plane on his way to Malaysia with 24 other priests from the Diocese of Xuân Lộc.

On this occasion, he was told that "he was not allowed to travel abroad, at the request of the Public Security Department of Nng Nai Province". However, "I suspect the reason was my intervention in the meeting of 16 May with representatives of the European Union,” Fr Tân said.

The German ambassador and officials from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) attended the meeting where Fr Tân, together with representatives of other religions, accused the regime of violating the human rights of its people.

The authorities have been keeping a watchful eye over the parish priest of Thọ Hòa for quite sometime because of his support for democracy and freedom.

On 4 September 2017, the priest was attacked by members of the pro-government Red Flag group (Hội Cờ Đỏ) who have tried to stifle the social activities of the Catholic community.