Hundreds of residents of a district on the edge of Vietnam’s capital held a rally Tuesday in front of a government building in downtown Hanoi, demanding the return of land they say was illegally confiscated from them to develop a controversial satellite city.
One of the residents, Dam Van Dong, told RFA’s Vietnamese service that some 300 people from the Van Giang district of Hung Yen province had gathered in front of the government’s Central Office of Public Relations at Ba Dinh Square to air their grievances during the peaceful demonstration.
After villagers had protested in front of the building for some time, officials emerged to meet with them for about 30 minutes, he said, but their complaints were not resolved.
Dam Van Dong said that he maintained hope that the group’s action would yield the results they sought.
“We are [remaining] calm and believe that what we’re doing is the appropriate method of [lodging a complaint],” he said.
“We have made clear in our requests that the land which Hung Yen authorities of every rank have taken from us must be returned.”
The group is opposed to the EcoPark satellite city project, which has led to a number of confrontations over the past several years since local authorities granted the developer 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land used by the villagers.
They say the land allocation was made without fair negotiations, and they have refused to leave.
This is the first time in six years that the villagers, who held the rally at a site situated near the Vietnamese National Assembly on Tuesday, are holding a protest in front of a government or ruling Vietnamese Communist Party building to air their grievances.
Dam Van Dong said the villagers had vowed to continue protests Wednesday, in cooperation with pro-government mass movement group Vietnamese Fatherland Front, and for as long as it takes to get their land returned.
“We people of Van Giang are opposed to the EcoPark project, which is totally illegal according to Vietnamese law. So we’ll fight to the end,” he said.
“We are assured that we will be successful in having our land returned to us.”
The EcoPark Satellite City project was approved by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in 2004, when he served as Deputy Prime Minister.
The 500 hectare (1,235 acre) site is located some 21 kilometers (13 miles) from central Hanoi.
Land for the project was confiscated in two stages in 2009 and 2012, but around 2,000 households have refused to take compensation from the government, saying the amount offered is significantly below what they are owed.
In June, holdout families clashed with a group of men hired to clear their land for the EcoPark site, leaving several villagers injured and others vowing to protect their homes should demolition crews return.
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, with people having only the right to use it. Land expropriation has been linked to several high-profile incidents of unrest in recent years.
Prime Minister Dung called in February for a revamp to the country’s land management policies and vowed to punish corrupt local officials involved in illegal land grabs.
He also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law."
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.