Authorities arrested a dozen people at an anti-China rally on Sunday, quashing the latest in a month-long series of demonstrations over tensions in the South China Sea.
Police arrested a dozen protesters and journalists covering the event outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and held them at a police station before releasing them about three hours later.
“After we were arrested, the police asked us, ‘Who is your leader?’ and ‘Who gave you the banners?,’” Duong Thi Xuan, a freelance journalist who was arrested at the protest, told RFA.
One protester who was also arrested, Vu Quog Ngu, told RFA that the police gave the demonstrators a hard time because their numbers were few in the sixth consecutive weekend of protests over the maritime dispute.
“Not many people and also no intellectuals showed up to join the protest on Sunday,” he said.
Hundreds of demonstrators, including several well-known Vietnamese dissidents and intellectuals, had attended previous protests, sparked by confrontations between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels off the Spratly (in Chinese, Nansha) and Paracel (in Chinese, Changsha) islands in June.
Public demonstrations are rare in Vietnam and usually restricted by the government, but until this week, authorities had allowed the protests to continue for five weeks in a row.
The move to stop the protests follows an agreement two weeks ago between Beijing and Hanoi to negotiate peacefully to resolve the dispute.
The two countries also agreed to "prevent words and actions that would be detrimental to the friendship and mutual trust between the peoples of the two countries," according to a June 26 news release from China's foreign ministry.
The potentially oil-rich Spratly and Paracel island groups are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Reported by An Nguyen and Thao Dao for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.