HANOI, Vietnam, MAY 17, 2001 (ZENIT.org–FIDES).- About 600 security agents surrounded and stormed a parish church this morning to arrest Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, an outspoken proponent of religious freedom.
Some of the faithful who had gathered for 5 a.m. Mass in the An Truyen parish were beaten and threatened by police when they tried to defend the Salesian priest, according to the Eglise d´Asie (EDA) news agency.
Father Nguyen was taken away in a police van. News of the arrest was confirmed by Dang Cong Dieu, chairman of the People´s Committee in Phy An village in central Vietnam, where the church is located.
In February, Father Nguyen urged the United States to delay ratification of a bilateral trade agreement because of serious violations of human rights in Vietnam.
Following this, the provincial government placed him under detention and barred him from leaving his commune. Later, the government also banned him from religious activity.
However, the priest “defied the order and continued to slander the party and government policies on religious freedom,” according to the chairman of the People´s Committee.
EDA reported that the vicar general of Huê Archdiocese said government officials pressured the archbishop to interdict the priest from his religious duties, but the archbishop refused to do so.
In March, the Vietnamese military newspaper Quan Doi Nhan labeled the priest a “traitor of the fatherland.” Father Nguyen has spent 10 years in prison, and since his release in 1992 he has been kept under police surveillance.
Police have also intensified their surveillance of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Its elderly leaders, Venerable Thich Quang Do and Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, were under arrest between 1982 and 1998. The Vietnamese government recognizes only seven state religious groups, and is wary of any independent sects or churches.