Vietnam alleges beaten AP photographer broke law

Associated Press reporter Ben Stocking sits in a hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. Stocking, APs Hanoi bureau chief, said he was punched, choked and hit over the head with a camera by police who detained him Friday while he covered a Catholic prayer vigil in the communist country. Stocking was released from police custody after about two and half hours and required four stitches on the back of his head. His camera was confiscated by police. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Associated Press reporter Ben Stocking sits in a hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. Stocking, AP's Hanoi bureau chief, said he was punched, choked and hit over the head with a camera by police who detained him Friday while he covered a Catholic prayer vigil in the communist country. Stocking was released from police custody after about two and half hours and required four stitches on the back of his head. His camera was confiscated by police. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The Vietnamese government said Saturday that an Associated Press journalist was violating its laws when he photographed a demonstration by land protesters in Hanoi, but sought to deny that he was beaten while in police custody.

AP Hanoi Chief of Bureau Ben Stocking emerged from a police station Friday with matted blood on his head and trousers, and a gash in his head requiring four stitches. He reported that he had been choked, punched and bashed with his own camera — the last assault opening a cut in his scalp that bled profusely. After his 2 1/2 hours in detention, he immediately had to seek treatment at a private clinic for the head injury.

Nevertheless, a foreign ministry statement disputed that there had been a beating.

“There was no beating of Mr. Ben Stocking by the Vietnamese security force,” read the statement attributed to Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung and posted on the Foreign Ministry Web site.

“Stocking broke the Vietnamese law by deliberately taking pictures at a place where taking pictures was not allowed,” the statement said. “Officers who were on duty to keep the public order warned him, but Mr. Stocking did not follow.”

The Associated Press stands by Stocking’s account that he was assaulted and said that there was no evidence that Stocking had broken any law. It has called the treatment of him “unacceptable” and an “egregious incident of police abuse.”

A video taken by an unknown cameraman and posted on YouTube showed the first part of Stocking’s detention.

Before he was escorted away by a plainclothes officer and put into a choke hold, the video shows Stocking calmly standing next to a police officer in broad daylight routinely photographing the protest, which involved a long-running dispute by Roman Catholics seeking the return of what had been church land.

He offers no resistance when asked to step away and is dressed in a dark shirt and clean white trousers.

(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Photographs taken by the AP of him after his release a few hours later showed blood on his clothing and caking his neck and hair.

The U.S. Embassy filed a protest with the Foreign Ministry after the incident, and the State Department has asked the Vietnamese government what it would do to prevent such incidents in the future.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists in May cited the Vietnamese government for a “recent spate of arrests, detentions, and trials of journalists in Vietnam” that it said contradicted the country’s constitutional provision that “broadly protects press freedom and freedom of expression.”

The Associated Press: Vietnam alleges beaten AP photographer broke law

More information and video of arrest

Vietnam: At least 14 arrests under the excuse of Olympic torch relay

01 May 2008

Peaceful protestors held despite being over 1,000 miles away from relay route

In yet another bitter twist in Vietnam’s pattern of repressing legitimate and peaceful dissent, the country’s authorities used the arrival of the Olympic flame to arrest at least 14 people – most of whom were over 1,000 miles away from the torch relay.

Amnesty International has serious concerns over their safety and is calling for their immediate release.

Amnesty International said:

The Vietnamese authorities must urgently investigate allegations of beatings against those detained, and ensure their safety and wellbeing.

As the Olympic Torch relay made its stop in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City on 29 April 2008, police arrested at least 12 demonstrators who had protested peacefully against Chinese policies. The majority of arrests took place in Hanoi, over 1,000 miles away from Ho Chi Minh City and the Olympic torch.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the ongoing campaign by the Vietnamese government to silence dissenting voices. Lawyers, trade unionists, religious leaders and Internet dissidents with links to emerging pro-democracy groups have been targeted since this crackdown began in 2006.

Earlier in April Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged the authorities to make the Olympic torch relay a success and ensure it would not ‘be affected by evil forces’ distorted information,’ according to state controlled media.

In the days leading up to the torch relay, at least three people were arrested, including Nguyen Hoang Hai, a journalist and blogger who had featured articles about protests against China’s international policies. Most of those arrested on the day of the torch relay had voiced criticism against China about an ongoing territory dispute with Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, and about its policies in Tibet.

Background

  • According to reports received by Amnesty International, Nguyen Xuan Nghia and another arrested person, Vu Hung, a teacher, were beaten by police. Vu Hung is among four who have since been released.
  • It remains unclear whether charges have been brought against any of those who remain in detention, such as writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Vu Anh Son, who are reportedly held in Kien An district, Hai Phong province.
  • In breach of international human rights law the Vietnamese penal code criminalises peaceful dissent. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the authorities to urgently reform provisions relating to national security and ensure they are either removed or brought into line with international law. The organisation reiterates its calls on the Vietnamese authorities to honour its international human rights obligations by releasing all prisoners of conscience.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17744

Vietnam: government threatens extreme action against Catholic protestors

While a standoff between demonstrators and police at Hanoi Redemptorist monastery continues, state-run media have begun to carry a series of negative reports of protestors urging the government to take “extreme actions” to terminate daily protests which last for more than three months now.

Since Monday, Hanoi television has produced a TV series broadcasted in Morning News and Night News programs falsely accusing Hanoi Catholics of occupying state-owned land, gathering and praying illegally in public areas, erecting illegally crucifixes and icons of Our Lady icons on the fences standing on the land in dispute, and disturbing public order.

The New Hanoi newspaper went further charging the protestors of taking advantages of religious freedom to stir up protests against the government.

The media campaign has led to fears that a police crackdown is imminent.

In the latest episode, local government has sent an order to Fr. Vu Khoi Phung the superior of Redemptorist religious order in Hanoi, asking him to present at the People’s Committee of Dong Da District.

Hanoi Redemptorists have been charged with challenging the jurisdiction of the committee to halt demonstrations and sit-ins at the site before Monday. At the time of the deadline, when hundreds of police came to the site, the Redemptorists and their parishioners gathered more and more people at the demonstration.

Currently, hundreds of protestors are camping at the site. After each Mass in the morning and evening, Redemptorist priests, and their associates, carrying a large cross, lead a procession to the site. There they pray, chant, and sing for hours before hundreds of crosses and icons of Our Mother of Perpetual Help hanging on the fences. Some Westerners also come to the site to show their solidarity with protestors.

Plain clothes and uniformed police officers can be seen in mass resorting to previously used intimidation tactics involving photographing and videotaping the protestors.

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/and214.html

Vietnam: Catholics protest in defiance of government ultimatum

After three months and one day holding daily peaceful protests over the seizure of 14 acres of their land by the government, parishioners from Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Hanoi now face an ultimatum to cease their protests before noon April 7.

Thousands of Catholics gathered at the disputed land to pray in open defiance of the local government ultimatum to free the area and disperse demonstrations by 12 pm Monday. The Peoples Committee of Dong Da district released a statement, warning the protestors that they are engaged in “illegal activities” with their prayer campaigns at the disputed land. The statement also threatened “extreme action” if demonstrations and the sit-in ­ ongoing since January 6 ­ were not called off by 12pm Monday.

Signed on April 6, the ordinance 212/UBND-VP “ordered” Hanoi Redemptorists to remove the cross and all statues of the Virgin Mary out of the site along with camping tents erected by demonstrators who have camped out at the site for more than three months.

At the time of the ultimatum, hundreds of police came to the site hinting that a crackdown was likely. Redemptorists and their parishioners responded by gathering more and more people to pray at the site, asking the government to respect fairness and put justice into practice.

A protestor argued with a local official that the parishioners “have no other choice than praying peacefully on disputed lands to attract the attention of the government on injustices they have suffered” because “their petitions have gone unanswered.”

“At the moment,” said Fr Joseph Nguyen from the site at 6pm Monday: “hundreds religious and lay people are praying. Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, are on the site, surrounding the protesters and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. Despite all threatening acts from the government, more and more Catholics go to the site to pray, chant and sing. Some even sleep at the site to protect their cross and statues”.

According to the Redemptorists who run the parish, they originally purchased 15 acres of land in 1928. In 1954, the Communist government took control of northern Vietnam and jailed or deported most of Redemptorists. This left Fr Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich to run the church by himself. Despite Fr Vu’s persistent protests, local authorities gradually seized the parish’s land one section at a time. Consequently, the plot of land was reduced from 15 acres to its present-day size of little more than half an acre.

The government upped the ante at the beginning of 2008 by allowing construction on the Chin Thng sewing company to commence. The confiscated church property soon was surrounded by a fence and the presence of security officials.

Protestors have been gathering at the work site since January 7 to prevent any further construction by the state-run company.

In a message sent last January 7 to all the Redemptorists in the country, the provincial superior Fr. Joseph Cao Dinh Tri says the local government has illegally confiscated land belonging to their monastery at Thai Ha, Hanoi and is supporting a construction project there. The Redemptorists in Hanoi, Fr. Cao continues, “have responded by gathering people to pray at the construction site, asking the government to respect fairness and put justice into practice. I would earnestly implore all of you, the whole province of Vietnam, to be in solidarity with our brother Redemptorists in Hanoi, in order to pray for our common apostolate”.

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/hanoi437.html

VietWill Plans Protest at San Francisco’s Olympic Torch Relay

Berkeley, CA
14 March 2008

A protest against China’s military aggression in the South China Sea, characterized by its violent harassment of Vietnamese fishermen making a living on their own waters, is being planned by an internet based activist group Viet Will, for when the Olympic Torch passes through San Francisco on April 9th.

The group’s decision to hold a protest at the upcoming event is in direct response to host China’s politicization of the Olympic Games by capitalizing on the Olympic torch relay to make illegal claims on Vietnamese territories which it had seized by force and continues to control.

While the issue over China’s illegal seizure of Vietnam’s Paracel Islands in the South China Sea since 1974 has not been resolved, China aspires to utilize the Olympic Games as a front in order to publicize to the world its dominion over the Paracel Islands by including an enlarged and boxed off map of the archipelago in all of its torch route maps.

China has further tried to emphasize its contempt for Vietnam by forcing the Olympic torch to pass through the Paracel Islands on its way to Ho Chi Minh City on April 29th. Normal international protocol stipulates when the Olympic Games torch passes through a specific location in any particular country, permission needs to be granted from that country in order for this to occur.

In the case of the Paracel Islands, by taking advantage of the upper hand in its relationships with Vietnam, China has decided unilaterally to have the Olympic torch pass through the archipelago as a matter of national issue, despite the fact that Vietnam has never given up on its claim of rightful ownership of the islands. Historical and judicial evidence demonstrate that Vietnam’s claims are well-founded.

In reality, the Paracel Islands are very small. If the islands were depicted proportionally to the rest of the relay route map, they would not be visible at all. Still, the fact that China has magnified the islands and boxed them off on all its maps indicates its intent to make territorial claims and using the high profile Olympic Games as its built-in publicity vehicle, which smacks of politicizing the sports festival.

The organizers of the protest aims to demonstrate the theme of the Olympic torch relay “Journey of Harmony” is contrary to the reality of China’s actions in the South China Sea, where in the past several decades, China has been increasingly aggressive in making claims on Vietnamese territories via diplomatic coercion and outright military force.

In the process of trying to control the region, China has made the life of poor Vietnamese fishermen a nightmare by continually ordering its navy to hunt down, capture, extort money, shoot to injure and murder Vietnamese fishermen and sink Vietnamese fishing boats on the sea surrounding both the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, which China also partially controls as a result of military invasion in the 1980s and 1990s.

Countless families have lost loved ones their boats, their livelihoods and have gone bankrupt as a result of being attacked by the Chinese navy while trying to catch fish for a living on their own waters. Captured fishermen on the sea are forced to pay a monumental sum of $15,000 USD before being let go or they may face torture and execution.

The purpose of Viet Will’s protest is, firstly, to highlight China’s hypocrisy in taking advantage of the Olympic Games to make claims on Vietnam’s Paracel Islands, and of the sea waters around the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

Secondly, protestors seek to demand that China stop hunting down and murdering Vietnamese fishermen who are in their own waters as well as disputed waters, thereby preventing poor people from making an honest living.

Thirdly, protestors seek to demand that China respect the territorial integrity of its Southeast Asian neighbors (both land and sea) by giving up its unjustified claims on the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands.

This is a political issue which could mushroom into a larger conflict in Southeast Asia. No neighboring nation is going to feel safe if China can bully its way into their territorial boundaries and take over at will. This has already happened in Tibet and Taiwan, and it is happening again. Attention must be brought to China’s dangerous and damaging legacy of arrogance, greed and murder. This rally held by Viet Will will amplify this matter at hand.

http://www.VietWill.org
http://www.VietWill.net
Email: info@vietwill.net

Vietnam: Catholics mark New Year with mass demonstration for church land

 http://www.indcatholicnews.com/vetnewy231.html

Three thousand Hanoi Catholics marched for justice at Thai Ha Redemptorists monastery on Saturday, while ten thousand Saigon Catholics showed their solidarity at a vigil in Hanoi.

After Saturday Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kit of Hanoi at the parish of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the faithful joined those who have been protesting peacefully since 7 January to demand the return of their 14 acres of land held by the government.

Amid pouring rain, carrying a large cross, the Redemptorists led a procession to the property where the crowds chanted,and sang for hours in front of dozens of crosses and icons of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which are hanging on the fence that surrounds the confiscated property.

Throughout the day, hundreds vehicles were busy going back and forth carrying Catholics from dioceses of Bc Ninh, Hi Phòng, Namnh, Hà Tây, Vnh Yên to the site. Some had to travel up to 400km to join protestors.

Foreseeing the Saturday’s mass demonstration, security forces set up barriers to prevent a similar incident as in the former nunciature where protestors poured in and camped inside. However, the barriers were removed later. Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, were on the site, mingling in the demonstrators’ ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras.

In a message sent on 7 January to all the Redemptorists in the country, the provincial superior Fr Joseph Cao Dinh Tri said the local government has illegally confiscated land belonging to their monastery at Thai Ha, Hanoi and is supporting a construction project there. He said the Redemptorists had responded by gathering people to pray at the construction site, asking the government to respect fairness and put justice into practice. “I would earnestly implore all of you, the whole province of Vietnam, to be in solidarity with our brother Redemptorists in Hanoi, in order to pray for our common apostolate,” Fr Joseph said.

Thousands of parishioners have been surrounding church bulletin boards to see images and read articles relating to the protests in Hanoi. There is no independent, privately-run media in Vietnam and the state media has been largely silent about the recent protests. Catholics in Vietnam have been getting the news mostly through the Internet and church bulletin boards.

Catholics in Vietnam still missing land, protests continue

 http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11722

.- Although the Vietnamese government has agreed to return the Nunciature to the Archdiocese of Hanoi, parishioners from Our Mother of Perpetual Help insist that the government is still holding 14 acres of land belonging to parish. In protest, hundreds of the dispossessed Catholics marched to the site on Ash Wednesday.

The weather did not deter the demonstrators who chanted, and sang for hours in front of dozens of crosses and icons of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which are hanging on the fence that surrounds the confiscated property.

According to the Redemptorists who run the parish, they originally purchased 15 acres of land in 1928, with plans to construct a convent and church.

In 1954, the Communist government took control of northern Vietnam and jailed or deported most of Redemptorists. This left Fr. Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich to run the church by himself. Despite Fr. Vu’s persistent protests, local authorities gradually seized the parish’s land one section at a time. Consequently, the plot of land was reduced from 15 acres to its present-day size of little more than half an acre.

For more than ten years, Redemptorists in Vietnam have petitioned the government asking for the return of their land, but their pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The government upped the ante at the beginning of this year by allowing construction on the Chiến Thắng sewing company to commence. The confiscated church property soon was surrounded by a fence and the presence of security officials.

The new construction on the land commandeered from the parish led a crowd of local Catholics to gather on the afternoon of January 7 in protest. Local authorities arrived on the scene and promised that the construction work would end. However, the next day the Hanoi People’s Committee issued an official order authorizing the company in question to continue its work.

Protestors have been gathering at the work site for over a month to prevent any further construction by the state-run company.

Since February 7 marks the Lunar New Year—called Tet in Vietnam—local government officials asked the Redemptorists to disperse the demonstrators who have been camped out at the site and send them home to prepare for Tet. The priests had in fact already told the people to leave out of concern for their health, given the cold rain and low temperature, but none of them were willing to leave.

“I keep telling my children that I have to stay here to protect Church land,” one a woman said. “People who want to tell me happy New Year can come here and see me. I will not go home.”