HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it had summoned a US journalist who says he was beaten by police over his coverage of ongoing protests by Catholics seeking a return of land seized in the 1950s.
The ministry confirmed press reports that it had summoned Associated Press journalist Ben Stocking on Monday, without specifying what was said or what additional action would be taken.
The AP has accused Vietnamese police of beating Stocking, the agency’s Hanoi bureau chief, as he tried to cover the start of construction Friday of a public park in Hanoi on land claimed by the Church, a move denounced by Catholics.
Police took Stocking’s camera and, when he asked for it back, hit him on the head with it and punched him, the AP said in a report datelined from Bangkok.
He then spent two and a half hours in a police station before being taken to a clinic where he received four stitches to close a head injury, the agency said.
Vietnam has denied the allegations, and accused Stocking of violating Vietnamese law by taking photographs in an off-limits zone.
The Vietnamese police daily, Cong An Nhan Dan, said Stocking had been summoned “to receive a warning,” adding that the ministry was contemplating further action.
The daily run by Vietnamese security forces, An Ninh Thu Do, carried the same report, adding that the foreign ministry had accused Stocking of slandering security forces by saying they had beaten him.
The US embassy in Vietnam said it had lodged a protest with the government over the incident at the construction site, where dozens of Catholic priests, monks and nuns had gathered.
On Tuesday, construction of the park continued behind security barriers covered with barbed wire. A few Catholics prayed at the site, but were left alone by security forces.