PARIS, 1st July 2012 (IBIB) – From the early hours of this morning, hundreds of Security Police and people’s defence brigades surrounded key UBCV Pagodas in Hue and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), harassing and assaulting Buddhist monks, nuns and lay-followers attempting to join demonstrations called for by UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do to protest Chinese threats against Vietnam’s territorial integrity.
• In Hue, late on Saturday evening (30th June), Police broke into the private quarters of Venerable Thich Thien Hanh, head of the UBCV Provincial Committee in Hue at the Bao Quoc Pagoda and ordered him to call off the demonstration at the Buddhist Martyrs Memorial on Sunday morning (1st July). They threatened to take “firm measures” to prevent Buddhists from taking part. Venerable Thich Thien Hanh refused to call off th e demonstration.
“If you won’t let me demonstrate in the streets, I will demonstrate at home” – on 1st July 2012, young Vietnamese echo Thich Quang Do’s call for civil disobedience to protest Chinese expansionism
This morning, Police surrounded Bao Quoc Pagoda and prevented Thich Thien Hanh from leaving the premises. He immediately staged a sit-in in the Pagoda courtyard, carrying a placard marked “the Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam”, and gave an impromptu sermon to the scores of Security Police on the responsibility of Vietnamese citizens to protect the security of their homeland in face of foreign aggression.
At the same time, Police set up road-blocks around the Buddhist Martyrs Memorial, prohibiting all pedestrians and traffic from circulating in the area, and systematically intercepted all monks, nuns and Buddhists attempting to join the demonstration. The city of Hue has the largest concentration of UBCV Pagodas in Vietnam, and Hue Buddhists are strong supporters of the movement for religious freedom and democracy lead by UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do. This explains the extraordinary deployment of Security Police this morning, as revealed by the following reports from Hue.
At the Long Quang Pagoda, senior UBCV dignitary Venerable Thich Nhu Dat was intercepted by crowds of Police. Police vans blocked the road to his Pagoda, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the building.
At the Bao Quang Pagoda, Venerable Thich Chon Niem, Head of the Hue UBCV’s Commission on Lay Buddhists was stopped by crowds of Police and people’s defence agents at Quang Te Hill as he set off with a delegation of Buddhist monks and followers. Police roughly assaulted the Buddhists and forced them to turn back.
Venerable Thich Tanh Nhon of the Tu Hang Pagoda in Tuan village in the mountains near Hue, was intercepted after he boarded a ferry boat to cross the Perfume River along with fifty Buddhist followers to join the demonstration. Security Police forced the ferryman to turn the boat in the opposite direction and not let the Buddhists alight in Hue. Thich Tanh Nhon and his followers jumped into the river to try and swim to Hue to join the demonstration.
Venerable Thich Chi Thang from Phuoc Tanh Pagoda reached the An Cuu bridge with a group of followers before the People’s Committee’s Chairman ordered Security Police to forcibly escort them back to their Pagoda. Police attacked the group with electric truncheons, wounding one of the monks on the head and causing profuse bleeding.
At the Tho Duc Pagoda, Security Police locked Venerable Thich Chan Phuong and Buddhist followers inside the Pagoda for several hours to prevent them attending the demonstration. Venerable Thien Thien Tanh from An Tinh Pagoda was also intercepted by Police, as well as a number of monks, nuns and followers from Kim Quang Pagoda, which has recently left the State-sponsored Buddhist Church to join the UBCV.
Le Cong Cau, leader of the UBCV-affiliated Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia Đình Phật tử) was prohibited from joining the demonstrations and subjected to ”working sessions” with the Police for seven hours from 3.30pm–10.30pm on June 30. Police surrounded his home throughout the night. Le Cong Cau nevertheless set off this morning to join the demonstration. Police stopped him as he reached the Ben Ngu Bridge and forcibly escorted him home. Other members of the Buddhist Youth Movement, an unofficial educational movement which has some 500,000 members in Vietnam, were also prevented from leaving their homes.
• In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), from 5.00am this morning, Security Police blocked the entrance to Giac Hoa Pagoda, secretariat of the outlawed UBCV. At 6.00am, five Security Police formally read out an order prohibiting the monks from joining the demonstrations.
Venerable Thich Vien Hy holds a poster: “The Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam”. Behind him, plain clothed Security agents hide their faces to avoid being recognized by demonstrators on the streets (Photo IBIB)
Plain clothed Security Police block the entrance to Giac Hoa Pagoda to prevent monks taking part in demonstrations in Saigon (Photo IBIB)
At 7.30am, despite the Police ban, Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, Deputy leader of the UBCV along with Thich Nhu Tan, Thich Dong Minh, Thich Vien Hy and a delegation of UBCV monks and followers tried to go to the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery to escort Thich Quang Do to the demonstrations. Over a hundred Security Police and plain clothed people’s defence agents forcibly pushed the monks back.
Police told the monks they were forbidden to demonstrate because the UBCV is an “illegal” organization, and demonstrations are “political acts which violate the law”. Thich Vien Dinh replied that Vietnam has signed the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. He added: “Are you Security Police paid by China or Vietnam to come here and stop us from demonstrating to express our love for our country?”
A Security Policeman named Tot pulled out of his pocket a copy of Thich Quang Do’s call for a nationwide demonstration to protest Chinese expansionism. “This appeal to demonstrate is political! You are not allowed to engage in politics”, he said angrily, “Get back inside your pagoda, you aren’t going anywhere. No way will we let you join the demonstrations”. Venerable Thich Vien Hy, a young UBCV monk at Giac Hoa Pagoda, protested: “You can threaten children like that, but we are not afraid of you”. His remark enraged the Security official. He ordered the Police to use force to silence the monks. Police pushed them all back inside the Pagoda and blocked all the doors. No one was allowed to enter or leave the building for several hours. Even Buddhists who came to ask monks to perform funeral rites for deceased parents were roughly turned away.
At Lien Tri Pagoda in Thu Duc, Police surrounded the Pagoda from early morning and prevented Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, the UBCV’s Commissioner for Social and Humanitarian Affairs and members of his congregation from attending the demonstration.
The Thanh Minh Zen Monastery, where UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do is under house arrest, was surrounded by Police throughout the night. Early this morning, Security officials brought an official summons for Thich Quang Do to come for a “working session” at the Phu Nhuan Police Station. Thich Quang Do refused. He told the Police: “I am too old to come for interrogation, and anyway, you local Police have no authority for this. If you really want to interrogate me, then arrest me now. You can interrogate me in prison!”