A standoff between protestors and police at a Redemptorist monastery in Hanoi continued yesterday as the state-owned media accused the Catholic demonstrators of occupying state-owned land, gathering and praying illegally in public areas, illegally erecting crucifixes and icons of the Virgin Mary, and disturbing public order.
Father J.B. An Dang informed CNA that the New Hanoi newspaper also accused the protestors of taking advantage of religious freedom to stir up protests against the government.
Vietnamese Catholics have sought the return of property confiscated by the government and have been demonstrating at the Redemptorist monastery since January, 2008.
The hostile media coverage has increased fears among the demonstrators that a police crackdown is imminent.
The local government has ordered the Redemptorist superior in Hanoi, Father Vu Khoi Phung, to present himself to the People’s Committee of Dong Da District to face charges that the Redemptorists have been flaunting the committee’s ultimatum to halt the demonstrations and sit-ins before noon last Monday.
At the time of the deadline, hundreds of police came to the site of the protests, but more and more people joined the Redemptorists and their parishioners.
Hundreds of protestors are presently camped at the site. Demonstrators attend Mass each morning and evening, where plain clothed and uniformed police officers reportedly photograph and videotape them in what is seen as an intimidation tactic.
Some Westerners have also visited the site to show solidarity with the protesters.