Vietnam Activists Stage Rare Anti-China Protest Amid Concerns Over Survey Ship


2019-08-19
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vietnam-protesters-nha-trang-khanh-hoa-aug18-2019.jpg Activists stage a small peaceful protest against China in a tourist area in Nha Trang, capital of south-central Vietnam’s Khanh Hoa province, Aug. 18, 2019.
Photo courtesy of a protester

Four activists in south-central Vietnam’s Khanh Hoa province were detained by police on Sunday morning for staging an anti-China protest at a landmark popular with Chinese tourists in the provincial capital Nha Trang, one of the protesters said.

Detainee Nguyen Lai told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the demonstrators were calling on people to join them in widespread protests to be held on Aug. 22-25 in places where Chinese tourists congregate and in front of Chinese embassies and consulates in Vietnam.

“There aren’t any Chinese consulates in Nha Trang, so we decided to protest at the Hon Chong cafe, which is a great gathering place for China tourists,” she said.

When five activists, including Nguyen, peacefully protested against China, the manager asked them to leave, she said.

“He tried to tear up our sign and cursed at the protesters,” Nguyen said. “Then he decided to detain us and called the police. They arrived and took us to a nearby police station.”

Before the officers had arrived, one of the protesters managed to leave, and the remaining four were detained at the police station in Nha Trang’s Vinh Phuoc ward from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., she said.

“The police were quite peaceful with us this time [and] asked us to tell them what had happened,” Nguyen said.

RFA was unable to reach the police station for comment.

The Nha Trang protest is one of a few small, but rare, demonstrations that have taken place in August in Vietnamese cities, including the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to protest against what is seen as Chinese aggression and bullying in Vietnam’s territorial seawaters, especially concerning the disputed Spratly Islands.

On Aug. 6, activists in Hanoi staged a small protest in front of the Chinese embassy, but police officers ordered them to immediately disband. Four days later, a group of retired scholars in Ho Chi Minh City organized a small demonstration in front of the Chinese consulate.

The recent series of protests began when a Chinese survey ship returned to Vietnam’s territorial waters in the South China Sea, days after leaving the Spratly Islands, where it had been involved in a nearly month-long standoff with Vietnamese ships.

The ship, which in July had conducted a 12-day survey of waters near the Spratlys with support from the Chinese Coast Guard, intruded into an offshore oil block in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone off of the island chain’s westernmost reef.

A general call to protest against China on Aug. 22-25 has been posted on the blog Dan Lam Bao (The People’s Journal), whose writings are often reposted on a number of websites both inside and outside Vietnam, while the Vietnamese organization WE has issued a letter calling for patriotism and protecting the country together.

The groups are urging citizens to band together with friends or family for coordinated demonstrations outside Chinese embassies or consulates in cities where they live while displaying banners condemning China over its actions in the South China Sea.

The stated objectives of the protests are threefold: To show that the Vietnamese object to what they view as a Chinese invasion of their territorial waters and the country’s sovereignty; to condemn Vietnam’s communist government over its “cowardly and feeble reaction” to the actions of Beijing which are “abusive” and a “violation” of people’s rights; and to continue to affirm that the protection of national sovereignty is the universal right of every citizen, not the privilege of the Communist Party or the state.

China has aggressively asserted claims to the South China Sea, which Vietnam refers to as the East Sea, based on its so-called “nine-dash” demarcation line that encompasses some 90 percent of its waters, including territory claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chan Nhu Hoang. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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