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Vietnamese nuns fight for their land

Plot in Hanoi was illegally sold by officials to a woman now trying to build a house on it, they claim

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

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Vietnamese nuns fight for their land

St. Paul de Chartres sisters raise banners reading 'Stop construction on our land' in front of government offices called the 'Citizens Receiving Center' in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, on May 10. (Photo courtesy of Truyen Thong Thai Ha)

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St. Paul de Chartres sisters and lay Catholics in Vietnam have asked authorities to stop what they believe is illegal construction of a house on church land.

On the night of May 21 workers resumed construction on the controversial 200-square-meter plot next to the nuns’ convent in Hoan Kiem District of the capital, Hanoi.

The nuns have warned officials to take action to avoid a repeat of clashes that took place in 2016 and 2018 when a local woman hired men they described as "gangsters" to guard building work.

However, construction was stopped on both occasions by protests.

The nuns maintain that they have legally owned the disputed land since 1949 and intend to prevent construction "at any price."

They accused local authorities of granting a woman named Tran Huong Ly an unlawful certificate to use the land, as well as a building permit, in 2015.

On May 22, 123 nuns and local Catholics petitioned the People's Committee of Hoan Kiem district to stop building work from proceeding.

They also asked the government to deal with the land dispute.

In the 1950s, when communists controlled northern Vietnam, the government rented a novitiate building on the site for an institute of microbiology. The nuns were still paying rent until the 1980s.

The nuns claim that government authorities later secretly seized then divided and sold the site.

The communist government removed many Catholic organizations from their properties in the north after French colonial troops were defeated in 1954 and did likewise in the south after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

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