ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi
Updated: June 16, 2017 10:56 AM GMT
A banner raised across a road that calls on local people to expel two priests who have been active in helping local fishermen sue the Formosa steel plant that was responsible for a marine pollution disaster in April 2016. (Photo supplied)
Police have looked the other way as groups of youths have terrorized a Catholic community in northeast Vietnam.
Throughout June, gangs of youths, uniformed in red T-shirts with yellow stars and waving national flags, have attacked Catholics and their property in Song Ngoc Parish in Quynh Luu District of Nghe An Province.
"We see that the attacks have been carried out in an orchestrated manner and the police know well what is occurring but are ignoring what is going on," said Father Anthony Nguyen Van Dinh, with 10 other priests, in a June 13 petition given to the Vietnamese government.
The priests accused the government of "aiding and abetting those who intentionally violate laws, cause hatred and divide Catholics from others."
The attacks have occurred at night and at least two Catholics have been seriously injured, say sources.
Despite a heavy police presence, the youths have ridden motorbikes at full throttle through villages at night and thrown stones at a local church and at the homes of Catholics.
They have also intimated businesses owned by Catholics and in one case, the youths, armed with knives, threatened a Catholic shop owner and destroyed his goods while also driving away his customers.
Local Catholics say the youths are supporters of the Communist Party and criminal elements from other areas.
As part of their intimidation campaign, the youths raised banners in public places that called on locals to expel two priests active in helping local fishermen sue the Formosa steel plant that was responsible for a marine pollution disaster in April 2016. The youths also collected signatures from locals calling for the expulsion of the priests — Fathers John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc and Anthony Dang Huu Nam — from the area.
"The primary motivation behind the incidents is to pressurize local Catholics and the deanery into boycotting and expelling the two priests from Quynh Luu district," said the priests in their petition.
The priests said the government is seeking to "conceal the truth about the marine catastrophe caused by Formosa and preventing the people’s fight against the steel plant."
Toxic waste, including phenol and cyanide, from the Taiwanese-built steel plant in Ha Tinh province poisoned water along a 200-kilometer stretch of coastline killing hundreds of tons of fish. Those affected by the disaster are seeking to be properly compensated and for the plant to be moved from the area.
Professor Nguyen Dinh Cong, who taught at the National University of Civil Engineering in Hanoi, said that the authorities are malicious in their attempt to separate Catholics from the community. "They only fool credulous people so as to strengthen the power of interest groups," Cong, 80, said via Facebook on June 15.
Cong also called on Catholics and other people to "love, support and show solidarity with one another to fight against Formosa."
Formosa is one of Vietnam's biggest foreign investors.
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