Released policemen walk out from the communal house at Dong Tam commune, My Duc district in Hanoi on April 22, 2017.
STR/AFP/Getty Images
By Ryan Kilpatrick
April 24, 2017

Residents of a village in Vietnam have released 19 hostages held for a week over a land dispute on the outskirts of the capital Hanoi.

Villagers in Dong Tam Commune, in the suburb of My Duc, took 38 police officers and government officials hostage last Saturday after Hanoi police detained four locals, according to the BBC. Some of the hostages were freed earlier this week.

The disagreement between the people of Dong Tam and the authorities has been simmering since 2015, when it was announced that villagers’ land would be parceled up and sold to a military-run telecommunications firm. Residents said that they have been offered inadequate compensation for the 116-acre land seizure.

Vietnam’s communist state does not allow private land ownership, and reserves the right to seize land for construction and other projects. Since the villagers do not technically own the disputed land, the government said the protests are against the law, the Associated Press reports. While land disputes are common in Vietnam, large-scale protests are rare, as the state severely limits citizens’ freedom of expression and assembly. Activists are often harassed and can face harsh punishment under laws designed to crack down on government critics.

The remaining Dong Tam hostages were freed Saturday after a meeting between activists and Hanoi’s police chief, who promised amnesty for the villagers involved and a review of local land use.

[BBC]

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