Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to pay attention to what is happening in Vietnam and send a special rapporteur to investigate the state of freedom of opinion and expression.
"The Vietnamese government must end its intimidation and attacks against Catholics and ensure protection against violence by state-sponsored groups," Amnesty International said in a press release on Friday.
In a briefing paper the London-based human rights organisation has documented events since last December when Catholics began peaceful demonstrations backing demands by the Diocese of Hanoi and the Redemptorists of Thai Ha for the return of confiscated Church property.
After a period during which dialogue seemed to prevail with the government indicating in February its willingness to gradually return Church property, the authorities began taking in increasingly hard line.
Violence followed threatening words by Hanoi's People's Committee (City Hall). In September "police injured several people with their batons, and 20 people were hospitalised . . . At least eight people were arrested."
Amnesty International said it believes: "others are at risk of arrest: in recent days, police have stepped up efforts to intimidate protesters and are calling in for questioning both parishioners and church leaders".
People who were arrested "were accused of destroying or deliberately damaging property and causing public disorder (Articles 143 and 245 of the Vietnamese Penal Code). Both offences carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
Source: Independent Catholic News