Vietnamese in second anti-China rally over disputed islands

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22932703-5005961,00.html

HUNDREDS of Vietnamese protesters again rallied peacefully against Beijing’s claims to two disputed South China Sea island chains, but were kept away by police from Chinese diplomatic missions.

About 300 demonstrators in the capital Hanoi and 100 in the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City were prevented from rallying outside the embassy and consulate of Vietnam’s northern neighbour and communist ally by hundreds of police.

In Hanoi, security forces cordoned off the Lenin Park area near the embassy, where demonstrators one week earlier staged a rare hour-long protest over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos that earned Hanoi a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

Instead, the groups of protesters, most of them students, marched through the centre of the capital, shouting anti-Chinese slogans and singing patriotic songs in the latest display of anger over the long-simmering dispute.

Most of the demonstrators wore identical T-shirts with the red-and-gold Vietnamese flag, a map of Vietnam that included the islands, and the words “China hegemony jeopardises Asia” and “Beware of the invasion”.

Another banner read: “We are small but not reconciled to China’s invasion.”

In Ho Chi Minh City around 100 student demonstrators were rallying at a park near the Chinese consulate, holding signs that read “Hands off Vietnam”, “Vietnam: United We Stand” and “Stop Chinese Expansion”.

The two archipelagos, considered strategic outposts in the South China Sea, have potential oil and gas reserves and rich fishing grounds.

The disputes stir strong passions in Vietnam, which remembers a millennium of Chinese rule and fought its last border war with China in 1979.

The Spratlys, more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, are claimed in full or part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Paracels – which Chinese troops took from South Vietnamese forces in 1974 – are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

The protest started December 9 after China set up a county level government unit which covers 2.6 million square kilometres, mostly ocean, including the disputed isles.

That rally, which supported Vietnam’s official stance, was tolerated by police for about one hour, a rarity in Vietnam, where public protests are usually suppressed quickly.

China protested the demonstration two days later.

“We are highly concerned over the matter,” said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang at the time.

“We hope the Vietnamese Government will take a responsible attitude and effective measures to stop this and prevent bilateral ties from being hurt.”

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