Vietnam clamps down on anti-China protesters, arrests 80
Jul 17, 2011, 4:29 GMT
Hanoi - Security forces in Vietnam broke up demonstrations outside Chinese diplomatic missions early Sunday, arresting dozens of protestors who were calling for a stronger stance against China's territorial claims in the South China sea.
The protests outside the embassy in Hanoi and the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City were in their seventh week.
About 300 protesters in Hanoi called for the return of Truong Sa, the Vietnamese name for the Spratly Islands, and Hoang Sa, referring to the Paracels.
Hundred of security officials with riot control gear and firearms broke up the demonstration, detaining at least 55 in Hanoi and 25 in Ho Chi Minh City, witnesses said.
'The government can't extinguish this kind of protest because it is a symbol of our patriotism,' a protester who declined to be named said. 'The more they arrest protesters, the more they lose people's support.'
She said she was arrested last week, but was still determined to join the rallies.
Demonstrations are rare in tightly controlled, communist Vietnam. But the anti-China demonstrations were tolerated for around five weeks outside both diplomatic missions.
The crackdown, now in its second week, came after Vietnamese and Chinese officials on June 26 agreed to 'steer public opinions along the correct direction' and avoid stoking antagonism.
Tensions have risen between the two countries in recent months, as Vietnam has accused its neighbour of harassing seismic survey ships and fishing boats in a contested area of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands.
The potentially mineral-rich islands are the subject of conflicting claims by China, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Rights groups slammed Vietnam over Sunday's arrests.
'The Vietnamese government is shamefully showing its true authoritarian colours with this second consecutive week of police cracking down and arresting peaceful protesters,' said Phil Robertson, Asian deputy director of Human Rights Watch.
He said that the authorities, far from respecting the right to free assembly, are in effect telling the protestors that they demonstrate at their own risk.
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