Catholic nuns protesting the building of a house on disputed land in Hanoi were attacked and beaten this week by guards hired by the construction firm, with at least one nun left unconscious in the assault, Vietnamese sources said.
The May 8 attack began when building crews attempted to bring construction materials onto the site, which nuns belonging to the St. Paul de Chartres convent say has belonged to their order since 1949.
“While we were praying in front of the property, many plainclothes policemen and thugs arrived to use violence against us so that they could bring in their materials,” Teresa Tu, one of the nuns of the St. Paul order, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Phuong, a Catholic parishioner who came to the site to support the nuns in their protest, said she had been kicked during the assault.
“I now have a huge bruise on my thigh,” Phuong said, adding, “One of the sisters was dragged across the ground, and her clothes were torn. She bled a lot.”
In a May 10 report, the Asian Catholic news service ucanews said that police who were present at the site did nothing to restrain the attackers, who had “insulted and attacked the nuns with batons.”
One nun was beaten unconscious during the assault, ucanews said, citing witnesses at the scene.
Following the attack, local officials arrived to discuss the situation, and “a large machine” was brought in, Teresa Tu said.
“I thought they were going to use it to spray gas on us,” she said.
'They stopped paying rent'
The property, located at 5a-5b Quang Trung Street in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem district, has belonged to the St. Paul order since 1949, Tu said, adding that the government began to rent the land in 1954 for use by an institute.
“Later, they stopped paying rent but never returned the land, and we have been asking for it back ever since,” she said.
Though local authorities issued a decision in August 2016 to halt future construction on the land, an investor was later granted permission to build on the property, Tu said.
On May 8 and 9, the St. Paul sisters protested in front of district offices to demand that the building permit be revoked, sources said. But district authorities ruled on May 9 that the permit was in order, allowing construction to proceed.
Authorities in Vietnam have long repressed the Catholic Church in the one-party communist state and subjected it to forced evictions, land grabs, and attacks on priests and their followers, sources say.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.