4,000 Christians Beaten by Police in Vietnam for Protesting Against Dumping Toxic Waste Into the Sea

(Photo: Reuters/Kham)Catholics attend an ordination ceremony at the Citeaux Chau Son abbey in Vietnam's Ninh Binh province, 120 km (75 miles) south of Hanoi, April 29, 2012. Vietnam is home to the second largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines.
(Photo: Reuters/Kham)Political dissident Nguyen Xuan Dien (C) holds a sign which reads "Formasa is disaster for Vietnam's marine environment, people and land" during a protest in Hanoi, Vietnam May 1, 2016 against a unit of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics, a firm they blame for causing an environmental disaster and the death of large numbers of fish in central coast provinces in April. A government investigation into the fish deaths is underway but its preliminary probe found no links to Formosa's .6 billion coastal steel plant in Ha Tinh province.
(Photo: Reuters/Kham)Demonstrators, holding signs to protest against Taiwanese enterprise Formosa Plastic and environmental-friendly messages, say they are demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 1, 2016.
(Photo: Reuters/Kham)A policeman tries to stop anti-China protesters holding placards during a demonstration in front of the Philippines embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 17, 2016.
(Photo: Reuters/Kham)Demonstrators, holding signs of environmental-friendly messages, say they are demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 1, 2016.
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Four thousand Catholics from the town of Ky Anh in Vietnam were beaten by police after they led an anti-pollution protest against the government, following the contamination of 70 tons of fish from waste dumped into the sea.

Asia News reports that the Christians were protesting against a fish-related environmental disaster that has gripped the country and threatens to leave hundreds of fishing families hungry.

After nearly 70 tons of fish died allegedly because of pollution caused by Formosa Plastic Group, a steel company that dumped waste into the sea, Christian fishing families affected by the pollution marched at municipal offices in Ky Anh town, but were blocked and beaten by police barricades, leaving several people injured by truncheon blows.

Phuong, one of the protesters identified in the report, said: "On Aug. 15 we decided to march to the offices of the town but the police had blocked all access to the highway."

The protester added: "Some protesters tried to climb the barricades but they were repelled. Police used batons to beat people, and a woman was injured."

Ky Anh officials are denying that police used violence, however, and argued that people were injured because of the size of the crowd that had gathered.

International Christian Concern, a group that monitors Christian persecution, noted that the dying fish have left many families in a state of panic.

"Fishing is a vital and important source of income and food for Vietnam and would have a major impact on the economy if the situation continues without proper counter measures. As a result protests have continued and local authorities, in an attempt to quell the situation, have resorted to violence," ICC noted.

"Vietnam continues to harass, intimidate, and beat religious minorities as countless Christian pastors remain in prison merely for their beliefs."

Other persecution watchdog groups, such as Open Doors USA, have ranked Vietnam 20th in a World Watch List of nations where Christians face the most severe persecution. Open Door notes that the Communist government in Vietnam opposes the Catholic Church, which is by far the largest Christian community in the country.

Christians in Vietnam have faced violence not only from police, but also mobs opposed to their faith in Jesus Christ. Back in July, three houses in the Quang Ngai district of central Vietnam were stoned by a mob of attackers due to the occupants' Christian faith.

"The only thing our brothers did was believe in Jesus. They are new believers. The local authorities and cops forced them to give up what they believed — an American religion. But since they refused to do as they had been commanded, the cops and the local officers came to the village to destroy and harass them," one villager who witnessed the attack told Open Doors at the time.