Nativity Scene Removed by Force in Saigon’s Loc Hung

12/11/2019 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – On Sunday, Vietnamese authorities clashed with citizens over a Christmas nativity scene displayed in a Catholic community in Ho Chi Minh City that has been embroiled in a land dispute.

According to Radio Free Asia, in celebration of Christmas, a group of Catholic residents of the Loc Hung Vegetable Garden settlement in Ward 6, the city’s Tan Binh district, planned to set up the nativity scene over the weekend. But police, plainclothes security agents and militia were dispatched to the area to uninstall the display.

The residents then began to protest, saying that authorities were violating their rights to religious freedom.

According to the Facebook account ‘Vườn rau Lộc Hưng’ (Loc Hung Vegetable Garden’), the incident took place at 9 a.m. Sunday when the local authorities pulled down a wooden frame that would have been a part of the display.

The Loc Hung residents returned in the afternoon to re-build their nativity scene, only to have the authorities come back to stop them.

Residents’ resistance caused the arrests of Cao Thi Thu, Pham Trung Hieu and Pham Duy Quang for protesting, though they were released by 10 p.m. that evening.

The nativity display’s statues of Christian religious figures Mary and Joseph were destroyed in the conflict. RFA’s Vietnamese service shares a video of the clash documenting the authorities’ actions against citizens.

Early this year, this community was a flashpoint in a controversial two-day operation in which authorities demolished at least 112 houses in the settlement claimed by the Catholic Church, displacing hundreds of residents.

Land dispute with Catholic churches has been one of the common problems in Vietnam, where the government seizes properties owned by the Catholic Church and replace them with lucrative real estate projects without giving property notice or compensation.

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