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by Emily Nguyen

ICC Note:
According to a Vietnamese party newspaper, the bishop backs the crackdown against Catholics. Concerns are mounting that another wave of repression against the population is going to take place after local residents lost their homes and the church cemetery to a government land grab.

1/3/11 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese government is cracking down again against Con Dau Catholics after fraudulently taking away their cemetery to build a tourist resort. Media have claimed that the local bishop agrees with the government but Mgr Chau slammed the false information, telling AsiaNews that as a pastor I “shall never agree to something that runs against the legitimate interests of my people.”

According to the newspaper, Tranh “showed the bishop the city’s socio-economic development plans and informed him of its urban planning orientation, especially in relation to Con Dau parish.” The paper claimed that “Mgr Chau Ngoc Tri thanked city authorities for the visit and expressed his full support for the city’s policy as well as his regrets for what happened in Con Dau.”

Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate criticised the lies contained in the article. “As a pastor, I have the right to protect my flock. I have never been and shall never agree to something that runs against the legitimate interests of my people.”

Since the start of the year, Con Dau Catholics have resisted a government order to seize all the houses in the area as well as the local cemetery in order to build a luxury tourist resort. The order itself falls far short of providing adequate compensation for the seized property.

In May, 500 police beat parishioners who tried to bury a woman in the cemetery, arresting some of those present. A few days before their trial, their lawyers were banned from representing them in court. They were sentenced to 12 months in prison (see Emily Nguyen, “Harsh sentences for six Con Dau parishioners,” in AsiaNews, 28 October 2010).

According to some Catholics, Tranh’s visit and the newspaper article are a prelude to fresh violence.

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