Hanoi villagers release first 15 police hostages as land dispute tension lingers

By VnExpress   April 18, 2017 | 12:16 pm GMT+7
Hanoi villagers release first 15 police hostages as land dispute tension lingers
The neighborhood where the land dispute has broken out. Photo by VnExpress/Huyen My

A group of 20 people are still being held since the weekend.

A group of 15 police officers held hostage by villagers over an alleged land dispute in Hanoi were released on Monday night while three others managed to escape, police said.

That means 20 police officers and government officials of My Duc District are still being held illegally, they said.

Bach Thanh Dinh, deputy chief of Hanoi police, said the city is trying to do everything it can to solve the problem, and the top priority is to rescue everyone.

“We will solve this using the laws,” Dinh said, pledging to impose strict punishment on those responsible for the crime.

On Saturday, Hanoi police detained four people from My Duc’s Dong Tam Commune, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the city center, for breaking land use regulations. The violations have not been specified.

Disgruntled villagers then took hostage 38 police officers and government officials at a communal house.

Hanoi authorities had called for their release and also discharged the villagers arrested.

Dinh said the majority of villagers do not have any problems with land management in the area.

“Some people lacking legal knowledge have deliberately escalated the situation and incited others,” Dinh said.

Some villagers told VnExpress that all they wanted is for their land to be cleared in accordance with the law. They also said the villagers provided the detained policemen and officials with enough food and water.

Land grievances remain the main source of concern and protests in Vietnam. In 2012, they accounted for 70 percent of all complaints lodged against the government, according to a parliamentary report.

Vietnam does not technically allow private land ownership but grants land-use rights, which confer the same rights as freehold property.

According to Hanoi authorities, the land dispute in Dong Tam Commune has lingered for years and become heated since February this year.

Some locals have been fighting for what they believe is their agricultural land, but officials have said the land belongs to the military.