Vietnam: police arrest Catholic protestors

 Hundreds of police were mobilized in Hanoi yesterday, to hunt for Catholic activists who have been leading demonstrations at Hanoi Redemptorist monastery. Local Catholic sources in Hanoi confirm that so far at least three people, including an old woman, have been arrested. Some parishioners, who took part in protests at the site, were also summoned to police stations. In one incident, 30 police men were deployed at the site to arrest Nguyen Thi Nhi, a protestor woman who has camped at the site since January. Hanoi Redemptorists report that despite these threatening moves of security forces, hundreds religious and lay people kept praying at the site under the presence of large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, surrounding the protestors and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. On Wednesday, with the clear intention of intimidation, Hanoi police announced at a press conference that they had launched a "criminal investigation" against Hanoi Redemptorists charging the religious with using their influence to incite the faithful in a confrontation with the government, destroying state property, assembling and praying illegally in public areas, and disturbing the public order. In an open letter sent to Vietnam prime minister, the chairman of the Congress, and the Supreme Court released Thursday morning, the religious order criticizes the move asking for constructive dialogue respecting truth, justice, and law. State-run media in Ho Chi Minh city (formerly known as Saigon) which, until recently, had stayed away from the Church land disputes in Hanoi, have "swamped in" the campaign of disinformation and threats. The Voice of Vietnam has repeatedly warned Catholic hierarchies in Saigon that any attempts to disturb public order will be punished severely. The warning has been issued after the provincial superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, sent a letter on last Sunday in which he urged all Redemptorists of Vietnam to be in solidarity with those of Hanoi, announcing a protest vigil at the Saigon Redemptorist monastery yesterday.

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