09/11/2008, 00.00
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Bishops in Thai Ha to express solidarity; crackdown on those who talk to media

by J.B. An Dang
A steady stream of people continue to join the demonstrators asking for the restitution of parish land. Some are coming by bicycle, because police are blocking the buses used to transport the faithful. Efforts to keep information from getting to the news agencies, including AsiaNews.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, it was the turn of an 83-year-old bishop, Paul Cao Dinh Thuyen, who in order to express his solidarity with the demonstrators of the parish of Thai Ha traveled 334 kilometers from his diocese of Vinh, in central Vietnam. "The problem of Thai Ha", he explained upon his arrival, "is also the trouble of Vinh and Thanh Hoa diocese, and of the entire Church in Vietnam". Also present at the place, in fact, is the bishop of Thanh Hoa (south of Hanoi), Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, and the two prelates concelebrated Mass (in the photo). Since Friday, Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of Lang Son (to the far north of the country, on the border with China), has also been at the spot.

The affair of the Thai Ha land, which the Catholics are asking be given back, has seen the authorities carrying out a campaign of disinformation and repression. Now there is an effort to block news on what is happening from leaving the country. Significantly, while state television and the national newspapers are discussing the matter extensively, there is no mention of it in the media destined for the outside world, in French and English.

From Hanoi, one source - anonymous for obvious reasons - recounts the efforts to crack down on anyone who provides information for the outside. "I was about to send an e-mail when police swamped in. The person next to me had his browsing history inspected. He even was forced to log in to his e-mail account for a ‘security inspection’". "The authorities are especially monitoring anyone who uses Catholic media"; the source warns those who visit the websites of "AsiaNews, Catholic News Agency, Catholic World News, Independent Catholic News, Zenit, just to name a few".

But the protest - which remains peaceful - continues. Thousands of Catholics are arriving from the nearby provinces by bicycle, since the authorities are sending back the buses carrying the faithful intending to express their solidarity. Many of them went yesterday to the Mass celebrated by the bishops. "We are here to show our communion with you,” said Bishop Joseph Nguyen in his sermon. He asked everyone to pray intensely “for those who were arrested and for those who have been harassed in any way by the government.”

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See also
Threats and media attacks against the Catholics of Dong Da
Children's newspaper joins campaign against Catholics of Hanoi
The Catholics of Ho Chi Minh City manifest their solidarity with those of Hanoi
Facing possible arrest, bishop of Thai Binh says goodbye to faithful
By attacking Catholics over Thai Ha, state media risk dividing Vietnamese


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