Vietnam land protesters say ready to free hostages

HANOI (Reuters) - Protesters in Vietnam's capital of Hanoi said on Tuesday they were ready to release the 21 officials remaining from a group taken hostage when a long-running land dispute escalated on the weekend.

Police officers were among the 36 hostages seized on Saturday, following the arrest of four people protesting against what they called insufficient compensation by authorities taking over residential land for a telecommunications project.

An initial group of 15 hostages was freed on Monday, when authorities also released all the detained protesters.

"We are ready to free all officials now," said Bui Viet Hieu, a representative of the protesters from the commune of My Duc, on the city's outskirts. "We are just waiting for representatives of the authorities to come and receive them."

Local government officials responded to the protesters' claim of inadequate compensation by saying they did not own the land and their demonstration was against the law.

Protesters used rocks and pieces of wood to block access roads to the area, with some families even putting sofas in the streets.

Land disputes are common in Vietnam and the disagreement over My Duc has run for years, but it is rare for residents to take officials hostage in the communist state, where there is little tolerance of dissent.

Police will deal resolutely with lawbreakers and residents of My Duc should not think the authorities had compromised, Bach Thanh Dinh, the deputy director of Hanoi police, told state media VnExpress.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)