Hanoi OKs anti-China street rally

Demonstrators slam Beijing for parking oil rig in disputed waters


Protesters staged one of Vietnam’s largest ever anti-China demonstrations Sunday, decrying Beijing’s deployment of a deep-water drilling rig in contested waters as territorial tensions soar.

Some 1,000 people, from war veterans to students, waved banners saying “China don’t steal our oil” and “Silence is cowardly” — a dig at Hanoi’s handling of the dispute — while singing patriotic songs in a park opposite the Chinese Embassy.

“This is the largest anti-Chinese demonstration I have ever seen in Hanoi,” said veteran Dang Quang Thang, 74.

“Our patience has limits. We are here to express the will of the Vietnamese people to defend our territory at all costs. We are ready to die to protect our nation,” he said

Hundreds of plainclothes and uniformed police set up barricades to prevent protesters from approaching the Chinese Embassy compound but made no move to break up the rowdy demonstration, even though the communist regime normally tightly controls any public expression of discontent.

Dozens of anti-China demonstrations have been held in Vietnam since 2007 to protest Beijing’s perceived aggression over territory.

The two countries are locked in long-standing territorial disputes over the Paracel and Spratly islands, which both claim, and often trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration and fishing rights in the contested waters.

Tensions between the communist neighbors have risen sharply since China unilaterally announced in early May it would move a deep-water drilling rig into disputed waters — a move the United States has described as “provocative.”

Vietnam said China’s decision was “illegal,” demanded the rig be withdrawn, and dispatched vessels to the area — which it claims were subsequently attacked and rammed by Chinese ships.

Vietnam has alternated between tolerating anti-China rallies and violently breaking them up. The communist regime is wary of public gatherings that could threaten its authoritarian rule.

However, on Sunday it appeared there was a pro-government faction within the demonstration, including young protesters clad in T-shirts bearing the image of Vietnam’s revered founding father, Ho Chi Minh, waving the communist hammer and sickle flag while shouting “Down with China!”

Other dissident-aligned factions at the protest were more critical of the Vietnamese government’s handling of the dispute and used the opportunity to call for changes to the one-party state.

“We want to send a message to the Vietnamese government also — they are responsible for this situation,” demonstrator Tran Xuan Bach said.

Protests also broke out in central Danang town and southern Ho Chi Minh City Sunday.

Vietnam’s tightly controlled state media have covered the oil rig dispute closely and reported on the demonstrations. There was no official comment from the government.

  • zer0_0zor0

    I don’t mean to be callous or sound totally unsympathetic to the Vietnamese position, but I don’t see a valid historical basis for the claim, nor do I see justification under current international law, sch as UNCLOS. Take a look at this map, for example, which shows where the Paracels fall geographically under UNCLOS. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:South_China_Sea_vector.svg

    I do not find the red dotted line claimed by China (based on claims to the Spratly’s, apparently) to be realistic, but do find their claim to the Diaoyu/Senkakus and Paracels to be fairly compelling historically and with respect to international law–to the extent I understand it.

    I’m not even familiar with the historical basis of China’s claims to the Spratly’s, but am inclined to be skeptical in that regard considering the geography. On the other hand, due to the geography so many countries have claims and some degree of control there it is hard to see what will happen. but maybe someone will come up with a novel multi-national schema for administration and special provisions under UNCLOS.