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Cablegate: Dj@ Vu All Over Again: Hanoi Catholics Renew Protests Over

VZCZCXRO6381
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0980 2350924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220924Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8343
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5047

UNCLAS HANOI 000980

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PREL PHUM PGOV VM
SUBJECT: DJ@ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: HANOI CATHOLICS RENEW PROTESTS OVER
PROPERTY

REF: A) HANOI 446, B) HANOI 160

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Catholic demonstrators this week renewed their claims to
land near the Thai Ha parish in Hanoi. Predictably,
State-controlled press praised local authorities for their
reasonable reaction to the demonstrations and accused the Catholics
of unlawful acts. A source in the Vietnamese Episcopal Council told
us that local Party authorities asked that the Hanoi Episcopal
Council intervene to end the protests, but that the Council refused
because its members believe the parish priests and lay followers
involved in the protest are in the right. Neither side seems
willing at this point to compromise on the issue of who owns the
land near the parish. End Summary.

Protests Resume
---------------

2. (SBU) On August 14, approximately 150 Catholics associated with
Hanoi's Thai Ha Parish renewed demonstrations over land they claim
was wrongfully taken in the early 1960's. The land in the capital's
Dong Da District is occupied by three State-owned companies and a
hospital. The demonstrators also reportedly knocked down a wall
surrounding the property and have erected a statue of the Virgin
Mary and have been holding vigils there over the past week. Two
tents the Catholics put up last June, the last time demonstrations
took place at the site, remain pitched on the disputed land.

3. (SBU) Vietnam's State-controlled press has accused demonstrators
of "unlawful" acts of assembling, tearing down a brick wall
surrounding the property and holding vigils in an attempt to arouse
"social disorder." Press accounts also reported that local
officials intervened to try to persuade the demonstrators to
disband, but to no avail. In refusing to consider Catholic claims
to the land, the Government has cited a 2003 National Assembly
resolution stating the State will not reconsider the implementation
of policies on housing and land management, as well as socialist
reform policies on housing and land, issued before July 1, 1991.
Nor will it accept claims for land and houses the State managed
during the implementation of those policies.

4. (SBU) Leaders of the Thai Ha diocese and monastery, however,
continue to insist that they have acted in line with legal
procedures to reclaim their land-use rights. They reportedly have
told local authorities that they will mobilize more followers if
Hanoi authorities continue to refuse to give back the land.

Reaction from a Respected Catholic Figure
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) A close aide to the Hanoi Archbishop on August 22 told us
that members of the Vietnamese Episcopal Council, including the
Archbishop, have received a formal request from Hanoi authorities to
advise priests from Thai Ha parish to cease their current
activities. The Council, however, refuses to intervene, the aide
said, because Council members have concluded that the demonstrators
"are doing the right thing." The contact characterized the new
chief priest of Thai Ha Parish as "an intellectual person," with a
"clear view" on what it takes to reclaim the disputed land. In June
and July, Hanoi authorities formally decided to take back the
disputed land, the aide explained. Because they have no intention
of returning the land to the Church, local priests staged the
activities on August 14, he said.

Comment: No End in Sight
------------------------

6. (SBU) The situation near the Thai Ha Church has cooled down a bit
over the past two days, with less activity at the disputed property
site. However, the rhetoric in the State-run press and the comments
from the Catholic insider, as well as sympathetic reports from the
California-based "VietCatholic News," suggest that no resolution is
close. Neither side seems ready to compromise on this thorny issue,
and protests are expected to continue.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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