HANOI, Vietnam, APRIL 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An ongoing land battle between the Church and the Vietnamese government has escalated such that the state-run press is accusing a Redemptorist priest of plots to overthrow the government, a crime that can bring the death penalty in Vietnam.
The Church has not been successful in its land battles with Hanoi; the former site of the apostolic nunciature there was cleared last year for a public park.
Now, the government is taking over another plot of land, this one the property of the Thai Ha parish and Redemptorist Monastery in Hanoi. The superior of the community, Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, wrote the government in protest.
The government has responded with various measures, including summoning the Redemptorists to investigation. On Sunday, the newspaper New Hanoi, run by the communist party, accused the community spokesman, Father Peter Nguyen Van Khai, of “instigating parishioners in order to sow divisions, inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law and instigating others to violate it,” according to VietCatholic News.
Monday, the Capital Security newspaper echoed the accusations in the New Hanoi, saying Father Nguyen teaches false Church doctrine to incite riots against the government.
Another Redemptorist has also fallen victim to the same state-run media.
Father Joseph Le Quang Uy in Saigon has been accused of “stupidity” and “ignorance” for his opposition to government plans for bauxite mining in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
The VietCatholic News noted that both articles called on the government for “immediate and severe punishments” of the two priests. The VietCatholic report suggested that the government might be “preparing public opinions for imminent crackdowns,” given that the accusations against the Redemptorists could be used to call for capital punishment.