The Mennonite Church in Vietnams Ho Chi Minh City was subjected to a violent raid by an estimated 50 public security officials last week.
In connection with a grievance against a building permit being used by the church and office building in Binh Khanh Ward, District 2, security officials last Monday reportedly used considerable force and beat church members and construction workers, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide on Friday. A group of democracy activists in Vietnam reported that a number of church members were badly injured as a result of being pushed from a height of five meters to the concrete floor.
This is a disturbingly draconian response by the officials to a relatively minor issue, said Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director at CSW. As Vietnam looks to claim the benefits of World Trade Organization membership, this must be accompanied by a much greater respect for the rights of its citizens. We hope that this issue is resolved without further complications.
According to Compass Direct News, the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang had secured a building permit, dated May 8, for rebuilding the church. However, authorities during the raid claimed that the construction work exceeded the scope of the permit.
A number of church members were arrested, including Quang, former Mennonite prisoners Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Huu Nghia and Le Thi Hong Lien. All had been released by the following evening.
CSW noted that it is difficult to determine the core motive for the raid, but some observers have suggested it may be rooted in the hostility of local officials towards the church.
The incident occurred as Vietnam reaches the final stages of accession to the World Trade Organization.