Vietnamese Police Detain Citizens Marking Anniversary of War With China

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Vietnamese gather at a park in Hanoi to honor citizens killed in a 1979 border war with China, Feb. 17, 2017.
Vietnamese gather at a park in Hanoi to honor citizens killed in a 1979 border war with China, Feb. 17, 2017.

Vietnamese police detained at least 10 people on Friday marking the anniversary of a 1979 border war with China, holding them briefly in custody before releasing them at the end of the day, sources say.

Most were picked up in Saigon, where dozens went in the morning to gather at a statue of Tran Hung Dao, a thirteenth-century Vietnamese military commander who had repelled Mongol invasions under Kublai Khan.

They were quickly blocked by police and security forces on their arrival, though, a participant told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“Just before 9:00 there were police everywhere, and I knew there would be a crackdown,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  

“A short distance from the statue, the poet Phan Dac Lu told me that the police were going to arrest people, but I told him that I would still go ahead, and as soon as we got there the police rushed us and took both of us away.”

“They dragged us to their vehicle,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the capital Hanoi, about 100 people had gathered at a statue of Ly Thai To, an early Vietnamese emperor, to pay tribute to Vietnamese citizens who had died in the three-week war launched by China on Feb. 17, 1979.

The ceremony was closely watched by uniformed and plainclothes police, one source said, adding that “in general, the ceremony took place as expected.”

“However, after the ceremony, a few people were arrested,” he said. “One was the blogger Nguyen Lan Thang.”

All those detained were released by the end of the day, sources said.

Blocked at cemetery

Three days before, police in Vietnam’s border city of Lang Son blocked a group of about 10 activists who had tried to enter a cemetery to pay tribute to Vietnamese killed in the war, sources said.

“As soon as we got there, a group of 30 plainclothes police approached and surrounded us. Half of them were women,” an activist named To Oanh told RFA.

“We showed them our IDs so that they would let us in to light incense for the martyrs, but they closed the gate, telling us we had to ask permission from local authorities before coming in.”

“They didn’t let us take photos, either,” Oanh said.

Also speaking to RFA, sources pointed to sporadic coverage in state-controlled media of the war’s anniversary, usually a sensitive subject in the often tense relationship between China and Vietnam.

“The Central Committee for Propaganda must have ordered this,” freelance journalist Vo Van Tao said, speaking from Saigon.

“For example, on this day or that day, they may say that newspapers A or B can carry some reports, but that newspapers C and D cannot.”

“In general, they maintain some control over this, but it is not the same every year.”

“It depends on the relationship between the two countries,” he said.

Little information

For now, school books in Vietnam contain little information about the 1979 war, “so readers don’t learn much about it,” textbook author Vu Duong Ninh told RFA, adding that this situation may change with the release of new books next year.

“We talk about our wars against the French and the Americans, and this doesn’t affect our relationships with those countries,” Ninh said.

“We need to let our students know about this,” he said.

Vietnam and China, both opaque communist governments with media and historians tightly controlled by ruling communist parties, have never published precise official death tolls from the border war.

But estimates leaked by China’s dissidents put Chinese soldiers killed at around 7,000, while Vietnam is estimated by some Western sources to have lost about twice as many troops. Vietnam has claimed the Chinese invasion caused some 10,000 civilian deaths.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Comments (3)

Hate Communist

from ghet bac Ho

Good grief, you truly are brainwashed and don’t see the light. Did you see the video at the upper right corner? How do you explain that? The screaming lady is from the North via her accent – uniquely! She was born and raised as a communist. She isn’t from the South, Central, or Highland region so you can drop that bit about ‘paying’ people!
I’d bet that you were raised as an orphan or poor and w/out parental guidance except of the misled info instilled in you by Ho’s goons. Via yours statement, that’s the only way anyone can reply in those manners! Those with brain and patriotic will never think that way less alone write it.
Where is your patriotic sense or pride? These were ‘your communist people/soldiers’ that died in the battle! Don’t you honor their sacrifices or feel for the surviving families? Truly, communists have no shame. I’m sure that lady from the video is no longer friendly toward the ‘Party’!

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Feb 21, 2017 04:39 PM

Mary Pham

from USA

These so-called "activists" are actually, anti-Vietnam and paid collaborators of South Vietnamese overseas who still hope to revive their defeated regime of 40+ years ago. They are using any opportunity to paint a negative image of Vietnam, for the news consumption of RFA, VOA, BBC... but, largely disregarded by domestic Vietnamese. In fact, they often are confronted by the general population who enjoys political stability, economic progresses and open society of the new Vietnam.

Feb 19, 2017 10:02 AM

Hate Communist

from ghet bac Ho

VNmese communists are spineless cowards and so their acts reflect a future demise of a nation. VN future is an issue here; it’s more importance and endearing than the disgrace communists.
They are mindless hunting dogs for the Chinese and Russians. They are here to do the dirty works so to be fed by the table scraps and sustained their political positions.
The likes of Nguyễn Tấn Dũng already have their millions of dollars. These ‘hunting dogs’ have financially sucked the country dry and poisoned the minds of the party (it isn’t hard because they can’t think for themselves) for years to come; thus; there is no future for VN.
Our country isn’t about the Communist Party.
By now; I hope; the people know that the Communist Party is/was a mistake – a pitiful shame that eats away our morals, religions, happiness, and sovereignty. VN can’t move forward with this ruling class – there is no future for VN if they continue to exist.
Although the article cuts deep in the hearts, but we shouldn’t be surprised by this and as I stated above – this isn’t about the Communist Party! It’s about VN future and its citizens. We can discuss about these communists until we blue in the face or write until the ink runs dry but it doesn’t do service or justice unless we emphasize on the people’s future.
What will the people do about this? How long will the people endure injustice and the shame of the nation? For ultimately, the future of VN is in the hands of its citizens!
Now I know why my father acclaimed that he would rather be a servant in heaven than be a king in hell! Don’t sale your dreams and free yourself from the shackles and bondages of an unwarranted aggressions.

Feb 18, 2017 02:04 PM

Anonymous Reader

Once again Sir, standing ovation to you for an educational comment. Only ignorant people don't see that their future and dignity have been taken away by their rulers. Living in a communist country is living like a slave i.e you're born slave and you die slave.

Feb 23, 2017 04:00 PM





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