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Cablegate: A Lesson in Double-Speak - Hanoi Authorities Brief Foreign

VZCZCXRO7934
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1187 2910925
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170925Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8630
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5227

UNCLAS HANOI 001187

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KIRF VM
SUBJECT: A LESSON IN DOUBLE-SPEAK - HANOI AUTHORITIES BRIEF FOREIGN
MISSIONS ON CATHOLIC LAND CLAIMS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On October 15, the Chairman of the Hanoi
People's Committee Nguyen The Thao summoned senior diplomats to
provide the official version of events surrounding the Catholic
Church land claims at Thai Ha parish and the former residence of the
Papal Nuncio. After a long, technical explanation of the historical
and legal background to the disputed properties, Hanoi officials
excoriated Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet for causing "social disorder
and public discontent." Thao's deputy confirmed that the GVN had
asked Vietnam's Episcopal Council to transfer Archbishop Kiet and
others out of Hanoi. The briefing did not sit well with many in the
audience -- subsequent glowing press reports to the contrary -- and
the Charge and other diplomats voiced concern over the authorities'
handling of the whole affair. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On October 15, the Hanoi People's Committee invited Chiefs
and Deputy Chiefs of Mission to attend a briefing on recent events
concerning disputed property at the Thai Ha parish and the former
residence of the Papal Nuncio. People's Committee Chairman Nguyen
The Thao was joined by Vice Chairman Vu Hong Khanh, Police Chief
Nguyen Duc Nhanh, and representatives of the MFA and Government's
Committee for Religious Affairs. A number of representatives of
Vietnam's state-controlled media also attended.

3. (SBU) Opening the briefing, Vice Chairman Vu Hong Khanh launched
into a complicated discussion of the historical and legal background
of the properties, insisting that the two parcels once belonged to
the Catholic Church, but were voluntarily transferred to the State
in the 1960s during the land reform movement. "Many plots of land
were transferred to State management during and after the War as
they hadn't been well utilized," Khanh stressed, adding that the
Church's land claims were not in compliance with the spirit/content
of the current land Law and Resolution 23 of the National Assembly.


4. (SBU) According to Khanh, the city's administration many times
invited the priests in charge of the Hanoi Archbishop's Residence
and Thai Ha Parish to discuss the issues and had proposed giving the
Church other land. However, instead of sitting down with city
authorities, clergymen including Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet and Thai
Ha chief priest Vu Khoi Phung had organized demonstrations and
sit-ins. (Note: The Archbishop told us in September the Church had
written annually for seven years to inquire about its claims, but
never received a response. Khanh's story omitted the Church's
objection to the transfer of the land to a developer proposing to
bid a Karaoke club. End note.) Moreover, according to Khanh, local
Church leaders, including the Archbishop, had "excited ignorant
parishioners in and outside Hanoi to commit unlawful acts." As
evidence, Khanh cited the destruction of a gate at Thai Ha, the
installation of statutes and crosses, and the posting of fabricated
information on the internet. Because of these efforts to arouse
"social disorders and public discontent," the city administration
decided to take back the land and build parks there for public use.


5. (SBU) Vice Chairman Khanh stated that the city administration
had issued an official warning against Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet,
Thai Ha Church chief priest Vu Khoi Phung, and other clergymen.
They had also asked the Episcopal Council to transfer Archbishop
Kiet out of Hanoi. In response to pointed questioning from the
diplomats, Khanh said while the city administration respects freedom
of expression and religion, religious practice must be in accordance
to the law. The Catholic Church's efforts to reclaim land was
wrong, and the recent acts of a number of clergymen and parishioners
violated the law, Khanh said.

6. (SBU) The Charge questioned why the authorities felt it
necessary to transfer Archbishop Kiet and others out of Hanoi,
emphasizing that it was difficult to explain these actions to a
skeptical U.S. audience. The Charge urged to allow freedom of
expression and find a mechanism to resolve disputes such as these
reasonably, fairly, and within the law.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The briefing was surreal enough. But the next
day the newspaper "New Hanoi" offered the following Orwellian
account: "[The Charge] appreciated the way the People's Committee
handled the matter. She said: 'We have always informed our
government and people in our country that those are purely
complaints for land, they have nothing to do with limiting religious
freedom and freedom of speech.' [She] expressed her hope that Hanoi
would effectively handle similar cases in the future." No further
comment needed.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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