Vietnam: Catholics beaten outside cathedral in Ho Chi Minh

A group of Catholics were beaten and forcibly removed by police from the spot where they were praying in front of a cathedral in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

They were reportedly dragged onto buses by police on 31 July while praying in front of Notre Dame Cathedral over a land dispute with authorities, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

According to the Vietnamese-language blog, Dân Làm Báo, the group had travelled to the cathedral from south-eastern and south-western provinces to pray after their land and property were seized by local authorities.

Those who attempted to resist being removed were "brutally" beaten, CSW reports, with several needing hospital treatment. They also had their mobile phones confiscated.

It is not the first time police have suppressed protests and prayer vigils by Catholics over land confiscations, with similar assaults in 2008.

In June last year, Catholics in Quy Chau District, Nghe An Province, were violently attacked by police in an attempt to seize their land.

In the last year, there have been attacks on priests and laypersons, disruptions to church services, destruction of property and damage to gravestones and sacred statues.

"The unlawful confiscation of land is a significant problem in Vietnam, and one that directly affects the Catholic Church," CSW said.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas condemned the latest attack on Catholics in Ho Chi Minh and called upon Vietnam to uphold religious freedom.

"This was a peaceful gathering of religious believers at a legally recognised venue," he said.

"The actions of the police and security agents are completely unjustified and are a violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief, enshrined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam acceded to in 1982.

"We call on the Vietnamese Government to protect the right to religious freedom of Catholics and other religious minorities in Vietnam, and to immediately end the use of force against peaceful religious activities."