On this Day in 2019, Ho Chi Minh City Authorities Began to Forcefully Evict Loc Hung Garden Residents

On Jan. 4, 2019, only a few weeks before Vietnam’s Lunar New Year, the authorities of Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), sent [1] bulldozers and excavators to enforce the eviction of the residents of Loc Hung Garden, an area that was home to more than 100 households. Some 400 policemen and public security personnel were deployed to the complex, blocking all street access and quickly setting up barbed wire fences around the eviction area.

The removal lasted from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. as many residents were taken to the police station in Ward 6, Tan Binh District, for resisting eviction. Internet services and mobile connections were cut off in the area. Around 40 houses were demolished following the forced eviction.

Meanwhile, local authorities used loudspeakers to propagandize [2] that they had “provided adequate compensation” for the residents of Loc Hung and that this area “is public land.” Many evicted residents then took to the streets and held a small-scale demonstration, saying the claims were inaccurate. 

According to the Loc Hung dwellers, [3] Tan Binh District authorities initially used bulldozers to flatten around 10 houses in the area in the early morning of Jan. 4, 2019. The residents claimed that they did not receive any official written notice or warrants from the district government for the sudden forced eviction.

Despite strong opposition from local residents, the authorities still demolished the residential houses and cultivated land in Loc Hung on Jan. 8 and 9. Many people living in Loc Hung had to move their property out of the area overnight, fearing it could be damaged in the land-grabbing process. It is estimated that at least 88 households, most of them were vegetable farmers, lost their homes and crops after the eviction, and many of them still have not received compensation for their losses.

Loc Hung Garden is a plot of land estimated between four and six hectares in Ward 6, Tan Binh District, HCMC.

Cao Ha Truc, [4] one of the residents, said this land initially belonged to the Paris Catholic Mission, which later gave it to the Diocese of Saigon with proper documentation. Following the partition of Vietnam in 1954 under the Geneva Accords, Catholics from Communist-controlled North Vietnam emigrated to South Vietnam. They began settling on this land, where this community would live for generations. Among the residents of Loc Hung were Vietnamese dissident and former political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien, her spouse Huynh Anh Tu, and their daughter.

After the Vietnam War concluded in 1975, Loc Hung eventually became the shelter [5] for disabled veterans of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. This area also housed poor college students and migrant workers from other regions of Vietnam.

For over 20 years, the households here have repeatedly applied for land use rights, but the HCMC authorities have not responded to their requests. Vietnam’s Constitution does not acknowledge [6] private land ownership. At the same time, Loc Hung is located in an area designated for constructing a cluster of public schools, which the People’s Committee of Tan Binh District planned in 2013. The Tan Binh authorities claim [7] they can clear the area as the residents’ houses and crops “were built illegally” here.

After the forced eviction in 2019, many residents of Loc Hung retained lawyers to use legal process to protest the government’s conduct. Human rights attorney Nguyen Van Mieng was one of Loc Hung’s lawyers until he had to flee the country for political asylum in 2023.

In November 2023, the Tan Binh District introduced [8] a plan to raise compensation for the evicted Loc Hung Garden households to solve the years-long dispute, from 7.05 million dong per square meter to 11.25 million dong for cultivated land. Yet, the agreement was never concluded since many of the people of Loc Hung rejected the suggested compensation, saying it is much lower than the market price, which could be as high as 100 million dong per square meter.

However, on Dec. 7, 2023, despite the unresolved dispute with the Loc Hung households, the authorities sent [9] a large number of police and security forces to surround and build barricades around the garden, forcibly evicting the remaining residents from their makeshift dwellings to proceed with the public school construction project.

The December 7, 2023 events marked another critical and distressing chapter in the ongoing struggle of the wrongfully evicted tenants of Loc Hung Garden. The forceful eviction of the remaining residents amidst an unresolved dispute not only raises serious questions about respect for legal processes and human rights but also sheds light on the broader issues of urban development and displacement. As bulldozers pave the way for new structures, they also tear through the fabric of a community that has fought tirelessly for recognition and justice.

This incident is a stark reminder of the often-overlooked human cost of urbanization in Vietnam that has happened in the last few decades. While much praise has been given to Vietnam’s economic growth and development, we also must not forget about the stories of the victims of urbanization, like the Loc Hung Garden’s tenants.

[1] Tran, Q. (2019, January 15). Timeline of the Loc Hung Garden incident. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2019/01/timeline-of-the-loc-hung-garden-incident/

[2] The 88 Project (2019b, December 11). Brawls broken out and arrests made: The LOC Hung Vegetable Garden crisis worsens – The 88 project. https://the88project.org/brawls-broken-out-and-arrests-made-the-loc-hung-vegetable-garden-crisis-worsens/

[3] BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2019a, January 6). Vườn rau Lộc Hưng “tan hoang sau cưỡng chế” hôm 4/1. BBC News Tiếng Việt. https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-46773634

[4] cswpress. (2021, June 22). The Story of the Loc Hung Vegetable Garden, Part 1: “Their whole world collapsed around them.” FoRB in Full. https://forbinfull.org/2020/11/09/the-story-of-the-loc-hung-vegetable-garden-part-1-their-whole-world-collapsed-around-them/

[5] BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2019c, January 9). Vườn rau Lộc Hưng: Nạn nhân vụ cưỡng chế Tết sẽ về đâu?

 https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-46794986

[6] The 88 Project (2019a, April 30). Forced eviction in Catholic community of Loc Hung leaves hundreds of families homeless and destitute, including many political activists – The 88 Project. https://the88project.org/forced-eviction-in-catholic-community-of-loc-hung-leaves-hundreds-of-families-homeless-and-destitute-including-many-political-activists/

[7] Ibid., [3]

[8] RFA. (2023, November 13). Vườn rau Lộc Hưng: Chính quyền tăng mức hỗ trợ thêm 4 triệu đồng/mét vuông đất, dân vẫn chưa đồng ý. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/news/vietnamnews/authorities-in-hcmc-increase-compensation-for-land-but-loc-hung-residents-still-not-agree-11132023070251.html

[9] The Vietnamese Magazine (2023, December 11). Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Vietnam; Authorities in Ho Chi Minh city enforce convictions of Loc Hung residents. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2023/12/chinese-president-xi-jinping-to-visit-vietnam-authorities-in-ho-chi-minh-city-enforce-convictions-of-loc-hung-residents/

 

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