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Vietnamese priest banned from flying to Tokyo

Police stop him boarding a plane as he prepared to attend Pope Francis’ Masses in Japan

ucanews reporter, Hanoi

ucanews reporter, Hanoi

Updated: November 22, 2019 11:32 AM GMT
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Vietnamese priest banned from flying to Tokyo

Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc and Catholics raise banners in 2018 protesting a government draft law leasing land to China. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Dinh Thuc’s Facebook page)

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A well-known priest active in protecting the victims of environmental pollution and social injustice in northern Vietnam has been banned from attending Masses with Pope Francis on his visit to Japan.

Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc was stopped at Noi Bai International Airport in capital Hanoi at midnight on Nov. 20 by airport security officials as he and other priests prepared to catch a flight to Tokyo.

Pope Francis will visit Japan from Nov. 23-26 after finishing his three-day pontifical visit to Thailand.

In a document issued by the airport police, Lt. Col. Phan Huan said Father Thuc had been banned from traveling to Japan due to “national security protection and [issues of] social order and safety.”

Huan said police did not confiscate the priest’s personal papers and if he had any complaints, the priest should contact the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Public Security.

A 'serious rights violation'

Father Thuc, pastor of Song Ngoc Parish in Nghe An province, where Catholics claim to have been treated unfairly by government authorities and suffer environmental pollution, had also planned to visit Catholic communities during his week-long visit to Japan.

In 2016, he provided legal advice for thousands of victims of marine pollution caused by the Taiwanese-owned Formosa factory in neighboring Ha Tinh province. He has also held prayer meetings for rights and environmental activists who claim to have been wrongfully jailed for their activities.

The Vietnam-based Association to Protect Freedom of Religion said Father Thuc’s travel ban was a serious violation of his human rights.

Redemptorist Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, who has also been banned from traveling overseas, said religious leaders in Vietnam were treated as second-class citizens whose basic rights were routinely denied on the back of vague reasons that were never confirmed by a court.

At least seven priests who actively take part in rights, democracy and environmental activities have been prohibited from going abroad in recent years.

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