Police have mounted harassments on clergy and parishioners with more arrests and interrogations amid the on-going campaign of vilification against Hanoi archbishop.

Communist youth at park inauguration ceremony
Thousands of Catholics pray every night at Thai Ha
A pray vigil at Thai Ha on Monday
More parishioners have been summoned in an investigation by police who have charged Hanoi Redemptorists and their parishioners with using their influence to incite the faithful in a confrontation with the government, destroying state property, assembling and praying illegally in public areas, and disturbing the public order.

The investigation was made public at a press conference held on Aug. 28 by Vu Cong Long, a police official in the district of Dong Da, where the disputed property at Thai Ha lies. It is still on the way.

So far, eight parishioners have been arrested and “more have been interrogated in recent days,” said Fr. Nguyen Van That, a Redemptorist priest at Thai Ha. “Police have threatened to summon all of us; priests, and religious of Thai Ha monastery. They have said each of us will be questioned individually,” he added.

Hanoi Catholics see the police investigation as a form of intimidation in an attempt to dismiss massive daily prayer vigils at Thai Ha. Despite of the campaign of disinformation and threats carried out by the state media, thousands of Catholics keep gathering at Thai Ha every night to attend prayer vigils asking for justice.

“Church leaders are careful to refer to the gatherings as ‘prayer vigils’ rather than ‘demonstrations’ – a taboo word in this country – a word that may lead to an immediate overt persecutions or even bloodsheds in this current situation,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi.

In another development, local government inaugurated a park built in hurry on the disputed land at Thai Ha. State media have claimed the new park would arouse cheers from local residents. However, only young boys of Communist Youth League, and military veterans attended the inauguration ceremony under strict security. Hundreds of police were deployed at the site. Fr. Joseph Nguyen commented: “It’s is obvious evidence that people do not support the government injustice.”

The new park leads Hanoi Redemptorists to another trouble. Local government has told them that its sewer lines would run through Saint Gerardo chapel which had been ransacked and half destroyed on the mid-night of Sunday Sep. 21.

Not only the Redemptorists and parishioners at Thai Ha, Hanoi archbishop is still among the victims, or rather the main victim, of the government’s harassment. In an escalating campaign to discredit him, state media have furnished “open letters of furious citizens to Mr. Ngo Quang Kiet” in order to repeat familiar accusations against him: smearing the nation, inciting riots thus damaging the stability of the country, breaking the law, and being unpatriotic. Some letters, like those in Vitinfo, went further attacking the Catholic Church in Vietnam as a whole. Others, masquerading as Catholics, call for his resignation.

At the Hanoi archdiocese’s office, meanwhile, Church officials reported that the pro-government mobs keep gathering regularly outside, yelling slogans in praise of Communism and questioning the prelate's patriotism. “They keep coming to hassle us, yet at smaller number,” said Fr. Pham Van Dung in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Oct. 8.

“The archbishop office keeps receiving threats through letters, and through people gathering outside. We consider them some sorts of unofficial threats from the government,” he added.

A panoply of spy cameras and listening devices are still overtly deployed to monitor all activities in the office, and to intimidate those who might wish to contact the archbishop. “We cannot function normally,” he said.