.- The global humanitarian group Amnesty International on Thursday issued a statement condemning the government of Vietnam’s “widening persecution” of Vietnamese Catholics who are demonstrating to secure the return of confiscated church lands.
Amnesty International, after noting the intimidation, harassment, and even violence state-sponsored groups have shown towards the protesters and the Church, urged the Vietnamese government to “end its intimidation and attacks against Catholics.” The group also warned that senior church officials could be at risk of arrest.
Catholics began their protests in December 2007 seeking the return of several properties including the former papal nunciature in Hanoi and also property formerly belonging to the Redemptorists.
Negotiations between the Church and the government stalled in February. In August and September thousands of people, some from other parts of the country, joined in peaceful protests at the properties. At the end of September authorities had sealed off the disputed areas.
Amnesty International said “widening persecution” has followed the Vietnamese authorities’ crackdown on Catholics’ peaceful protests in Hanoi in September.
The organization details in a new briefing paper how Catholics are increasingly physically and verbally attacked and intimidated.
The report is based on interviews with church groups, journalists and parishioners in
“And they shout bad words about our mothers and fathers, and say things like “kill the archbishop” and “kill the priests” a young Catholic woman told Amnesty International. “Last Sunday evening when I came from church, there were maybe 400-500 people there, many in blue shirts, shouting slogans and holding banners.”
Saying the state media’s campaign against the Catholic protesters is “intensifying,” Amnesty International reported how counter-protesters and state-sponsored groups are gathering outside the Thai Ha parish in Hanoi, harassing and intimidating church leaders and parishioners.
“At least one Catholic church outside of Hanoi has been attacked by stone-throwing gangs,” the group said.
“Authorities are also using criminal law to stifle free expression of opinion,” Amnesty international continued, stating that four protesters have been detained and charged while numerous protesters have been called in for questioning in recent days.
“Amnesty International believes that senior church officials are at risk of arrest,” the group commented.