Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung says his government will not
accept demands from the Vatican to return confiscated properties to the
Catholic Church in Vietnam. Mr Dung made the comments in Budapest
Friday, following trade talks with his Hungarian counterpart Gordon
Answering questions from VOA News,
Prime Minister Dung defended Vietnam's policy to stop the Catholic
Church from taking back church buildings and other properties that were
confiscated by the state since 1954.
In recent weeks
Vietnamese Catholics have held demonstrations in several parts of the
country to demand the return of church properties.
However, Mr. Dung said Vietnam would not accept any pressure, including from the Vatican, on this issue.
says that all properties in Vietnam belong to the country and the
government. And all the property claims have to be carried out
according to the law. He adds that every citizen in Vietnam, including
religious groups have to respect the law and the constitution of the
country. Mr. Dung also warns that he rejects the idea of any religious
groups working against the law. He says the property claims of the
Vatican go against the Vietnamese constitution and the law.
comments came as Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet reportedly
planned to visit Italy and to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in November
or December as part of efforts re-establish diplomatic relations
between Vietnam and the Vatican.
Yet, activists claim Mr.
Dung's arguments have been misused by the government to crackdown on
both Catholics and Protestants, amid reports that several church
leaders and individual Christians have been detained.
Dung spoke after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai on
improving economic relations, including an $88 million loan
agreement between the two nations for the building of a hospital in
Hungarian Prime Minister Bajnai told VOA News however
that despite the improved economic relations, Hungary and the European
Union will continue discussions with Vietnam about international
concerns over its human rights record.
"We do appreciate
greatly that human rights discussion that is going on between Vietnam
and the European Union," he said. "Hungary is part of that active
discussion. We consider the European Union an alliance of values,
including human values and human rights."
"We share the
opinion of our European partners. And we expect that this cooperation
and discussion between Vietnam and the European Union will lead to an
improving relationship between our countries and alliances," he added.
Bajnai's comments about Vietnam are closely watched by the European
Union as Hungary will take over the rotating EU presidency in 2011.
country is already part of the 'EU Presidential Troika', which consists
of next year's EU presidents Spain and Belgium as well as Hungary.
Vietnam has Southeast Asia's second largest Catholic community after the Philippines, with at least six million followers.
activists have criticized Washington for scrapping Vietnam from its
list of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious rights,
saying the move would legitimize the Communist government and what they
view as the war on religion.