Amid ongoing demonstrations held by Vietnamese Catholics who seek to recover confiscated church properties, the Vietnamese government has accused the Archbishop of Hanoi of inciting the protests. Meanwhile, Vietnam Police Generals have threatened to punish anyone who “incites protests” or writes and distributes articles relating to Catholic protests on the internet.
The accusations and threats come as the Catholic Bishop of Hung Hoa has charged the state-run media with lying and presenting fake Catholic priests as critics of the protests.
In the Monday edition of the New Hanoi, the Vice-Minister of Public Security Lt. General Nguyen Van Huong strongly criticized the Catholics demonstrating at Thai Ha, accusing them of “belittling the laws, and disrupting public order” while threatening to severely punish anyone “who incites protests.”
Major-General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, the Director of the Hanoi Police Agency has said that priests' mere presence at Catholic demonstrations qualifies as incitement.
“The presence of priests where Catholics assemble to pray illegally, or to perform riot behaviors, or to destroy state properties, by itself, is an act of riot stimulation,” he claimed.
Major-General Nanh also reportedly threatened to punish anyone who writes and distributes on the Internet articles about the Catholics’ demonstrations.
Catholic News Agency has received information from sources, who have requested anonymity for their own safety, that the communist government is monitoring CNA reports on the protests.
The Vietnam Police is an organization with a military hierarchy, comparable to the Soviet KGB, Fr. An Dang tells CNA. It is seen as the “sword and shield” for the defense of the Communist Party.
“The fact that two Generals of the ‘sword and shield’ speak out simultaneously against protestors signals potential hard-line measures to force them into submission,” he explained.
The New Hanoi newspaper has also accused Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of trying to associate the property dispute concerning the Redemptorists’ Thai Ha Church in Hanoi with the dispute surrounding the former papal nunciature in the same city. The paper also criticized the archbishop for encouraging 82 Hanoi priests to sign a Letter of Communion with the parish, Fr. An Dang said.
A Letter of Communion was recently sent by Bishop of Hung Hoa Anthony Vu Huy Chuong to the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam and the Superior of Thai Ha Monastery, concerning the Thai Ha Church property dispute.
In the letter, the bishop gave his full support to the Vietnamese Redemptorists’ efforts to regain their land.
“I have prayed,” Bishop Anthony Vu wrote, “that justice and the truth may be honored not only in Thai Ha but also in anywhere that people still have to suffer injustice and dishonesty.” He added that his diocese is not an exception.
“Recently,” the bishop said, “the vicar of Can Kiem confirmed with me that the man who spoke on state television against Thai Ha on behalf of Can Kiem parishioners is only a local government official – not a Catholic at all.”
The bishop’s report that the media is presenting false Catholics echoes another incident in which state newspapers on September 7 introduced as Catholic priests two men named Pham Huy Ba and Nguyen Van Nhat. The men spoke against the protestors at Thai Ha, but the Archdiocese of Hanoi immediately confirmed that the men are not Catholic priests, saying “They are never ever priests. It is the government that ‘ordained’ them.”
Bishop Anthony Vu ended his letter by calling the false accusations and distortions state run media have leveled against Catholics “extremely sad and wearisome.” He then asked Catholics to pray on the feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary “for the Church in Vietnam and the nation.”
Fr. An Dang reports that thousands of Catholics continue their peaceful protests daily at Thai Ha.