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Capital suspends controversial mall project following protests

Update: December, 31/2015 - 08:30
A materials stall at Ninh Hiep Market in Ninh Hiep Commune, Gia Lam District. A project to build a shopping mall in the district has been suspended due to public pressure. — VNS Photo Doan Tung

HA NOI (VNS) — Ha Noi authorities have decided to suspend the controversial shopping mall project in Gia Lam's District Ninh Hiep Commune following days of protests by local people, announced an official on Tuesday.

The municipal Party Committee's Commission for Popularisation and Education Deputy Head Tran Xuan Ha said at a press conference on Tuesday that the city would temporarily suspend the project in order to "clarify relevant issues".

He added that the city would also "strictly handle those who caused public disorder in the area".

The Ninh Hiep mall project made headlines last week when thousands of students refused to go to school for three days to protest against the authorities' decision to revoke a parking area at a traditional market earmarked for the new mall.

From Monday to Wednesday, hundreds of children even blocked the school gates with flags and drums, calling on authorities "to return the land to the residents".

Deputy Director of Ha Noi's Department of Education and Training Nguyen Hiep Thong told the Voice of Viet Nam that only about 100 out of the 1,600 primary students attended school on those days, while just a few secondary students out of nearly 1,000 attended classes.

The students reportedly were either pressured by their parents or were blocked at the school gates by some individuals – those who caused "public disorder", as Ha hinted.

Most of the students have come back to school since Monday.

The incident is the latest in a long-running confrontation between locals and authorities over the shopping mall project.

The project, approved by Ha Noi's People's Committee and to be built by Vinh Phat Trade and Development Investment Co., Ltd., has drawn criticism from locals for years, but to no avail.

Locals argued that the new mall would be redundant as Ninh Hiep already has two big shopping malls that are only 20 per cent occupied.

The investor has been forced to delay the project due to public pressure. — VNS

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