09/16/2013, 00.00
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Vietnamese Government and State TV launch fresh attacks on Bishop of Vinh

by J.B. An Dang
A 10 minute report aired last night made slanderous accusations against Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and the local Catholic community . The prelate is charged with leading a revolt , exploiting a story to create legal cases of religious persecution . Diocesan website risks closure. Vietnamese Catholics at home and abroad united in defense of the prelate.

Vinh (AsiaNews) - Vietnamese authorities, with the support of the media, have launched a new , violent attack against the Vinh diocese and Msgr . Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, "guilty" of asking for the release of two parishioners imprisoned for months without motive. In a 10-minute report broadcast last night by state television harsh accusations were made against the prelate , guilty of "lying , breaking the law on purpose and inciting to revolt " against Hanoi. The Catholics are accused of having "artfully fabricated" a legal issue - this is what the authorities say - to transform it into a case of "religious persecution ." And the smear campaign was followed by threats against the Catholic community of My Yen and Nghe An, with the promise of "new arrests" if the protests continued .

"In an interview with foreign journalists - claimed the state television broadcast service in Hanoi yesterday - t Bishop Nguyen Thai Hop manipulated the truth, made false accusations against the government of Vietnam in order to transform what is a normal procedure into a case of persecution against the Church . " The prelate also apparently "took advantage" of Catholics and their good faith to "foment riots." The report ended with a warning , which sounded more like a threat : "no one is above the law" and there will be " more arrests " if the rebellion continues.

Along with the bishop, the Vietnamese authorities have also targeted the website of the diocese of Vinh . Ngo Ba Hao , vice - president of the Committee for telecommunications , sent an urgent letter to Msgr. Paul sent an urgent letter to the prelate asking him to shut down the Web site of the diocese or face legal actions as the Web site is operated without the government permission. In fact, the government has never granted any such permission to Church institutions. Due to pastoral needs, dioceses in Vietnam run their websites at the risk of being prosecuted at any time.

The entire Vietnamese Catholic Church, both domestic and in diaspora, has shown full support to the Diocese of Vinh in its responds to recent defamatory attack by government media, defending the good name of its bishop and community and reiterating the baseless accusations of the authorities.

The dispute is really over events linked to the parish in My yen, which is seeking the release of two parishioners who have been in jail since last June without even a formal accusation being made against them. The diocese of Vinh and its bishop intervened in defense of the imprisoned parishioners, requesting the release , and the entire community , legitimizing the protests . The support of the diocesan Catholic leadership has sparked the reaction of the local and central authorities , who have launched a smear campaign against Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and threatened to intervene harshly to quell the protest.

For some time now, the Vietnamese government has been involved in a campaign of repression against bloggers, activists and dissidents seeking religious freedom, respect for civil rights, or the end of the one-party state. A petition has been launched for that purpose.  In 2013 alone, Hanoi has arrested more than 40 activists for crimes "against the state", a legal notion human rights groups consider too general and vague.  The Catholic Church has also been subjected to constraints and restrictions; its members, victims of persecution. In one case back in January, a Vietnamese court sentenced 14 people, including some Catholics, to prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, a ruling criticised forcefully by and human rights activists and movements.


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