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Vietnamese bishop questions government property claims, prosecution of protesters

Catholic World News - October 26, 2010

The president of the Vietnamese bishops’ conference has strongly protested the government’s prosecution of Catholic activists who protested the seizure of parish property at Con Dau.

The Catholic activists, who were arrested in a violent government crackdown on public protests, charge that they have been deprived of access to their lawyer.

Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, the president of the newly formed episcopal conference, urged a delay in the trial and asked for clarification of a number of issues—including the legality of the government’s seizure of the parish property.

With property values skyrocketing in Vietnam, the government has laid claim to many pieces of property, arguing that all property belongs to the people. In practice, the land is often seized, then sold to developers who profit from their ties to the government. Bishop Nguyen pointedly asked whether “the decision of local authorities of Da Nang to seize Con Dau parishioners’ properties in order to sell them to Sun Investment Corporation” can be justified under law.

The bishop went on to question “why the government is pushing the peaceful Con Dau parishioners into current tragic situation, causing one death, many arrests, others facing total loss of properties, and dozens fleeing to another country seeking asylum, when the government's duties are supposedly to protect the rights of the citizens, to stabilize their lives and their welfare.”??

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