Hanoi: Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres defend their property from land grab
For the past three days, nuns have held a sit-in at a disputed property, on which a local businesswoman has set her eyes. As soon as they saw construction workers move in, the sisters complained with police to no avail. After 1954, Vietnam’s Communists seized Church-owned hospitals and schools.
Hanoi (AsiaNews/ÉdA) – For the past three days, the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres in Hanoi have been watching over a piece of real estate they own to prevent it from being seized by a local business woman.
Yesterday, the nuns found a large amount of building materials and work tools on a property owned by their congregation, at 5 Quang Trung St, Hanoi. They had been placed at the site overnight.
Ms Tran Huong Ly, a local entrepreneur, has set her eyes on the property, taking advantage of the indifference of the authorities.
As soon as they saw the materials, the sisters alerted the authorities, who did not heed their demands. Having no other way to protect their property, the sisters began a 24-hour sit-in at the site.
The nuns had filed their first complaint against Ms Ly on Wednesday. Municipal officials said they would deal with the matter, and stop the businesswoman’s action. However, nothing was done. The next day, some workers came with an escort of unidentified men claiming to be war and disabled veterans.
The property on Quang Trung St is one of the many properties seized by the Communist Party after 1954, when Communist authorities began expropriating Church-owned hospitals and schools.
The property owned by the sisters was used as a school, but was sold to a private investor. The nuns however have never surrendered their title. In fact, they have demanded it be returned so they could use the building for their own activities. What is more, under current legislation, properties no longer used for the “people” have to be returned to their rightful owners.
In their last letter to the authorities, the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres wrote, "The lot at number 5 Quang Trung, Hoang Kiem District, Hanoi, belongs to the 'disputed land category'. On many occasions, we sent requests to the relevant state organs. Thus, in theory, no one can build on that lot."
The Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres are an international missionary congregation founded in France in 1696 by Father Louis Chauvet, pastor at Levesville-la-Chenard.
They arrived in Vietnam in 1860, during the harsh anti-Catholic persecution of Emperor Tự Đức (1847- 1883). They settled in Hanoi in 1883, at the end of a 261-year period, 1625 to 1886, that saw 130,000 Catholics killed.
Treated with great hostility by the authorities after the Communists took over in 1954, they have had to abandon all their missions in Hanoi, until 50 years later, when they were allowed back.
On 1 March 2010, they celebrated their return with Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet.