Vietnamese Catholics Attacked, Beaten by Police in Dispute Over Land

They are assaulted when they resist the removal of a cross they say was set up on land belonging to their church.

Police attack Catholic church members in Thua Thien Hue province in Vietnam, June 28, 2017.

Plainclothes police attacked and beat a group of Catholic priests and their followers in central Vietnam’s Thua Thien Hue province on Wednesday when the group attempted to defend a cross they had put up on land claimed by their church, sources said.

The 8:00 a.m. attack on June 28 was launched when authorities arrived at the Thien An monastery in Hue to take down the cross and saw church members taking their photos as they approached, Thien An priest Khoa Cao Duc Loi told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“They threw stones at the priests, and beat three or four of them,” Loi said, adding that their attackers were accompanied by “women and thugs” who helped police to pull down the cross.

“They prevented us from putting it back, and priests held on to the cross while police tore at their shirts and dragged them by their hair,” Loi said.

“Two priests were injured, their eyes were bruised. It was horrible,” he said.

Though the attackers were dressed in civilian clothes, Loi recognized many of them as police officers, he said.

“I could see the local police chief and his deputy. I also recognized some from the district and provincial police, though none of them were wearing uniforms.”

“I knew them because we had met with them several times before,” he said.

Loi said that one priest was left unconscious by the attack.

“We carried him home and tried to revive him at our church’s clinic. He woke up but still has chest pains and a headache,” he said.

“We will take him to the hospital for a CT scan if he doesn’t feel better,” he said.

In June 2016, police stopped Thien An priests from building a road leading to the monastery’s garden, prompting the head of the monastery to petition national and foreign officials in Vietnam and at the U.S. embassy in Hanoi over what he called the illegal seizure of church land.

Authorities in the one-party state have long repressed the Catholic Church in Vietnam and subjected it to forced evictions, land grabs, and attacks on priests and their followers, sources say.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.