Vietnam detains anti-China demonstrators

Posted on August 5, 2012


In this Sunday, July 1, 2012 file photo, about 200 protesters march through the capital’s streets, in Hanoi Vietnam, following China’s recent announcement that it will open nine oil and gas lots to international bidders, even though the area overlaps with Vietnam’s current foreign exploration contracts. Witnesses and a rights group said Vietnam has detained demonstrators who were protesting recent actions by China concerning the South China Sea, including Le Hien Duc, 81, center, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.
Margie Mason — AP Photo

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam detained more than 30 protesters on Sunday who expressed their anger over China’s recent actions in the South China Sea, a participant said.

Human Rights Watch said four bloggers along with anti-corruption activist Le Hien Duc, 81, were among those detained in Hanoi.

Duc told The Associated Press she was taken from her wheelchair, put in a car and driven to a police station where she was held for over two hours and instructed not to join rallies because she is too old. Police later returned her wheelchair to her house, she said.

After being released, she went to Loc Ha rehabilitation center – generally reserved for drug addicts and prostitutes – to wait for news about more than 30 other protesters who were detained there, she said.

“I participated in the protest to show the Vietnamese people’s patriotism and that we should not allow China to invade Vietnam,” the former elementary school teacher said.

Vietnam, China and other Asian nations have competing territorial claims in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes.

In July, China created a new city and garrison on a remote island to administer its claim over hundreds of thousands of square miles (kilometers) of water in the sea, sparking criticism from Vietnam, the U.S. and the Philippines. Some fear the escalating sea spats are a potential flashpoint for violence.

Vietnam’s Communist government does not tolerate challenges to its authority, but has sometimes allowed anti-China protests in the capital. It has blocked protests at other times when it apparently has wanted to repair ties with Beijing.

South China sea row:Detentions as Vietnam breaks up anti-China protest

Vietnamese police detained at least 20 people on Sunday as they broke up a protest in Hanoi against Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

Latest anti-China protest is the fourth such rally in just over a month to be staged by activists in Hanoi (AFP)

Vietnam accuses Chinese vessels of hindering oil exploration surveys in an area 200 nautical miles off its central coast that it claims as its economic exclusive zone.Both China and Vietnam have a long history of exchanging diplomatic jabs over maritime incidents, mainly involving areas around the believed resource-rich Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Demonstrators were forced into waiting buses and taken to a rehabilitation centre usually used to detain sex workers and drug users, after attempting to gather in defiance of a heavy police presence, one detainee told .

“There are at least 25 people here and there are arrestees elsewhere,” the person — who requested anonymity for security
reasons — said by telephone from the Loc Ha detention centre.

Another eyewitness estimated that 20 people had been detained.Before being forcibly dispersed, the activists shouted “Down with China’s aggression!” and waved Vietnamese flags and banners.

The protest is the fourth such rally in just over a month to be staged by activists in Hanoi. There were no arrests at the previous three.

The demonstrations come at a time of rising regional tensions over the South China Sea, which is believed to contain vast oil and gas deposits.

Hanoi and Beijing have a long-standing territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which both countries claim, and frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration and fishing rights.

Relations between the pair have soured recently, with Vietnam attracting China’s ire last month after it adopted a law that places the Spratlys under Hanoi’s sovereignty. China’s state-backed China National Offshore Oil Corp.also said it was seeking bids for exploration of oil blocks in disputed waters — a move slammed by Vietnam.

Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, last year allowed a number of anti-China rallies to go ahead without interference, but later clamped down, briefly detaining dozens of people.

China says it has sovereign rights to the whole South China Sea, which also has major international shipping routes.

The sea is also subject to overlapping claims by Taiwan,Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.