Vietnam: further protests over confiscated church property

Traffic came to a halt in Hanoi on Friday when more than 2,000 priests, religious and faithful went in procession from Saint Joseph’s cathedral to buildings and land that once belonged to the Catholic Church.

The protest which lasted from 9 to 10am was followed by another protest after the Mass to celebrate the 89th birthday of Cardinal Paul Joseph Pình Tng, former archbishop of Hanoi.

In the second protest, some Catholic women climbed over the gate to bring flowers to a Pieta Virgin Mary statue inside the building where they were confronted by security forces. Several women were attacked with batons and kicks. In an attempt to rescue the women, protestors standing outside the building broke the gate, poured into the garden, and clashed with the security personnel. The protestors took control the building for long enough to put up a large cross in the garden.

The security force was soon joined by nearby police units who retook control of the building and arrested and detained some protestors. Lawyer Lê Qu&c Quân was among the detained.

Friday’s protest was the strongest challenge to the communist government so far. Just a few days ago local authorities accused the archbishop of “using freedom of religion to provoke protests against the government and thus “damaging relations between Vietnam and the Vatican,” and threatened to crack down on any further action.


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