08/03/2012, 00.00
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Hanoi censors and patrols funeral of Catholic dissident’s mother

The elderly woman died after setting herself on fire to protest the unjust imprisonment of her daughter. The authorities want to stop and interrogate those who pay homage to the family. The trial of Mary Ta Phong Tan will open on August 7, she faces up to 20 years in prison for "propaganda against the state".

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Vietnamese authorities are closely monitoring the home of the woman who self-immolated last week to protest against the imprisonment of her daughter on charges of "propaganda against the state". Officials and security personnel monitor all those who pay homage to the family and offer their condolences for the tragic death of Dang Thi Kim Lieng, mother of Mary Ta Phong Tan, a famous dissident who is currently in jail awaiting trial and faces up to 20 years in prison . Many activists, bloggers, faithful and supporters have made their way to the Lieng family home in recent days in Bac Lieu, to bid a final farewell, but on their way they encounter police officers and agents that block their path, or subject them to repeated interrogations.

Dang Thi Kim Lieng, mother of Catholic blogger Mary Ta Phong Tan, died on July 30, after setting herself on fire in front of government offices in the southern province of Bac Lieu. Since her death and for the duration of mourning, including the funeral, plainclothes and security officials were stationed at her home and have recorded every movement. During the funeral they mingled with the crowd, trying to "intimidate" those present.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that the former political prisoner Truong Minh Nguyet was blocked by police as he walked - along with a group of activists - the road that separates Ho Chi Minh City from Bac Lieu. The agents stopped him, accusing him of driving a stolen motorcycle. "We have encountered many difficulties along the way - said the man - but we intend to complete our journey."

Meanwhile, human rights activists and international NGOs continue to protest the death of Lieng and the imminent trial of her daughter Mary Tan. The hearing in court against Mary Tan, 44, should begin on 7 August and there is a very real possibility she will be sentenced to decades in prison. She is a former police officer well known in Vietnam, because she denounced abuses and distortions of the prison system online (see AsiaNews 17/04/2012 Vietnamese government tries three bloggers for writing about strikes and justice). Her decision to convert to Catholicism also weighs against her, after an adolescence and childhood characterized by continuous "brainwashing" in Communist ideology. However, her encounter with a lawyer and activist for human rights sparked her desire to rediscover the faith that, over time, led her to baptism.

The Vietnamese government has implemented tight control over religious activities, and Catholics are often victims of violence and abuse, both individuals and entire communities. Among the many examples are the Montagnards in the Central Highlands and the Redemptorist Fathers, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, whose pastoral commitment is choked with systematic regularity. However, this violence did not prevent them from playing a key role in the spread of Catholicism and the teachings of the Church, especially among the poor and the abandoned (see AsiaNews 05/08/2011 Redemptorists teach Church's social doctrine in Ho Chi Minh City).


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