by J.B. An Dang
of faithful began demonstrating this morning to defend Thai Ha Parish
against the unlawful seizure of what is left of its land. They also
protested against the defamation campaign against them by state TV.
(AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholics took to the streets this morning in
Hanoi (pictured), demanding justice for Thai Ha Parish and the nearby
Redemptorist monastery. They waved banners: one stated, "Do not trespass
on religious land and property", another called on the government to
"return what you borrow", and a third said, “We protest Hanoi TV's
defamation and distortion of the truth about Thai Ha parish”.
The protest was provoked by a decision taken by the Dong Da District
People’s Committee to seize the limited land that is left to the local
Catholic community in order to build a sewage treatment system for a
Bought in 1928 by the Redemptorists, the original property covered an area of 61.455 sq m. Now only some 2,700, sq m are left.
The conflict reached its peak in 2008 and 2009 when days of protest by
thousands of Catholics ended in the trial and conviction of eight of
them for disturbing the public order.
The dispute’s latest round began on 8 October when the local parish
priest, Fr Joseph Nguyen Van Phuong, was summoned to appear before the
Dong Da District People’s Committee to be informed that they had decided
on how to dispose of the parish’s land.
Men and women religious as well as parishioners reacted by staging
protests. This was followed on 3 November by an assault carried out by
hundreds of police agents and soldiers using dogs and truncheons, taped
by a TV crew. Using loudspeakers, the attackers hurled insults and
stones at the convent, breaking its main door. Only the quick
intervention of faithful from neighbouring parishes brought in by
tolling bells stopped the attack.
On Wednesday, 500 riot police and security forces escorted dozens of
bulldozers to start building the hospital sewage treatment system, just a
few metres from the existing church.
At the same time, despite threats of retaliation by the authorities,
people began their protest in front of the People’s Committee
headquarters, whilst plainclothes police officers take pictures and
videotape the protesters.
“I’m not scared,” Peter Tuan Nguyen told AsiaNews. “We need to lift the veil from the injustices committed in Vietnam.”
“Why I came here? Well, to protest before the international community
[against] the ongoing persecutions we have suffered for almost seven
decades,” said Maria Thanh Tran.