Anti-Chinese Protesters take to Vietnam’s streets
Anti-Chinese protesters take to Vietnam’s streets. Demonstrations target plans for special economic zones thought to favour Beijing.
Protesters took to the streets in Vietnam on Sunday in rare demonstrations against special economic zones some fear will favour Chinese investors and a planned cyber security law that activists claim will stifle dissent.
Film and photos posted on social media showed large protests in Hanoi, the capital, Ho Chi Minh City and other Vietnamese cities. Some of the protesters carried anti-Chinese banners or chanted slogans such as “No China” or “China get out”.
Vietnam plans to open three special economic zones in the country’s north, centre, and southern Phu Quoc island where foreign investors will be offered generous incentives and be allowed to lease land for up to 99 years.
While the draft legislation does not single out China, Vietnamese who oppose it have claimed it will allow government officials to give preferential treatment to Chinese investors.
Anti-Chinese sentiment runs high in Vietnam, which is at odds with Beijing about overlapping claims in the South China Sea and which fought a brief war with the country in 1979.
Sunday’s protests were thought to be the largest since the demonstrations that followed a 2016 toxic waste spill by the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics at a steel plant, which contaminated more than 200km of Vietnam’s coastline.
“The 99-year land lease law will directly affect our sovereignty and allow us to fall to China,” Duong Dai Trieu Lam, who attended a protest in Ho Chi Minh City, told the Financial Times in a text message. “Our people could possibly lose 4,000 years of history and we could disappear from the world map.”
Mr Lam said that “thousands” of people participated in the protest he attended in the city’s central District 1, and at a second one in Tan Binh district, where its international airport is located. He said he saw police arrest dozens of participants.
A second man said he attended the protest in Ho Chi Minh’s District One, in which he estimated about 2,000 people took part. He said that at least 10 of his friends were arrested.
“When the Vietnamese government fail to act in favour of the nation and its people, then we Vietnamese will stand up to protect our country,” Nguyen Manh Hien said in a text message.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment on Sunday. Protests were also reported in the southern city of Nha Trang and in Nghe An, south of Hanoi.
In the face of public opposition last week, Vietnam’s government said that it might postpone parliamentary votes on the law on special economic zones. The cyber security law, which has drawn protests from Vietnamese activists and foreign technology companies and criticism from the US, is due to be discussed in the legislature later this week.
Vietnam is a one-party state where authorities have jailed dozens of dissidents, including bloggers, for voicing their views in recent years. However, unlike in communist-ruled China, Facebook is allowed to operate and many activists use the social media site to vent complaints against unpopular policies.