Conflict & Justice

Finally, a crackdown on Vietnam's anti-China rallies


A Vietnamese protestor shouts anti-China slogans on a street close to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on July 17, 2011. About 50 people, including some of the country's well known intellectuals, have staged anti-China protests over an escalating maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea. The rally was quickly dispersed by police after a dozen protestors were arrested. An unprecedented series of protests -- which are not common in authoritarian Vietnam -- have taken place peacefully in Hanoi.



In Vietnam, where protests are typically crushed swiftly by police, street rallies decrying China have dragged on for three months.

But in Hanoi on Sunday, police reasserted a stern message: stop rallying or we'll throw you in jail.

The ongoing rallies have tested Vietnam's patience with anyone brave enough to coalesce political dissent in the streets. According to Reuters, cops descended on a rally in Hanoi and swept somewhere between 19 and 40 protesters into vehicles. Dozens were previously arrested at the rallies had become a regular weekend occurrence in the northern Vietnamese city.

About eight protesters are still in detention, according to AFP.

Ironically, the protesters are more or less supportive of a government position: that China should stop entering parts of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government has repeatedly accused Chinese ships of ramming or harassing Vietnamese boats in the disputed area. The Vietnamese are quick to anger at any suggestion of China encroaching on their territory after a previous 1,000-year occupation.

But in communist Vietnam, even a political protest in synch with the government's party line is likely to get squashed in a hurry. It's surprising that the rallies have dragged on for so long.