About a hundred people took to Hanoi’s streets on Sunday to protest against Beijing’s perceived aggression in the South China Sea, as territorial tensions grow between the communist neighbours.
Demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi waved Vietnamese flags and shouted “Down with China!”, watched closely by security forces who have launched crackdowns on a string of anti-China rallies in the last year.
No arrests were made, according to protesters in the capital, but activists at another protest in southern HCM City were prevented from approaching the Chinese consulate, a witness said.
China and Vietnam are locked in a long-standing territorial dispute over the South China Sea, and frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which both countries claim.
The latest rallies come as Chinese State media on Sunday said the country had deployed four patrol ships to the Spratly islands.
Relations between the communist neighbours have soured recently, with Vietnam attracting China’s ire last month after it adopted a law that places the Spratlys under Hanoi’s sovereignty.
A subsequent move by China’s state-backed China National Offshore Oil Corp. seeking bids for exploration of oil blocks in disputed waters was slammed by Vietnam.
Surging territorial tensions last year saw Vietnamese protesters take to the streets 11 times – a rare occurrence in the authoritarian country.
Authorities allowed the first rallies to go ahead without interference, but clamped down on later gatherings, briefly detaining dozens of people after talks between Hanoi and Beijing.