China says upset over Vietnam fisherman clash

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam on Thursday denied reports of an alleged attack by Vietnamese fishing crews on Chinese fishermen after China requested a thorough investigation into the incident.

Chinese state media reported Wednesday that up to 10 Chinese boats fishing in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin were attacked and robbed of equipment by about a dozen armed Vietnamese fishing vessels on January 7.

“China is highly concerned about the case and has made representations to Vietnam and requested the Vietnamese side seriously investigate,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

Vietnam denied the claims later Thursday.

A preliminary investigation found that four Chinese fishing boats and three Vietnamese ones clashed after the anchors they used to hold the fishing nets down became stuck together, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung said.

“After the fishermen took them apart and drew up the nets, the boats continued to fish normally again,” he told the state-run Vietnam News Agency. The investigation was continuing, Dung said.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in the incident but several of the Chinese boats were struck by bullets, China’s People’s Daily newspaper reported. It also said the Vietnamese crews took Chinese fishing equipment.

The incident followed a series of peaceful December public protests in Vietnam against China’s claims over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands. Vietnam eventually halted the protests following complaints from Beijing.

The two island chains have been flashpoints for years. The Spratlys are claimed in full or part by China and Vietnam as well as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and the Paracels by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The islands have potential oil and gas reserves and rich fishing grounds, and are located next to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.


Rep. Royce Nominates the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do for 2008 Noble Peace Prize

WASHINGTON, DC– Today, along with two of his colleagues, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) requested that the Noble Peace Prize Committee consider the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do for the 2008 Noble Peace Prize.  In his letter, Rep Royce stated:

“The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, a Buddhist monk, well-known writer and Deputy Head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), has dedicated his life to a struggle for justice, peace and human rights in Vietnam. In his struggle for the rights of others, he has sacrificed his own safety and freedom, spending almost 30 years in detention for his peaceful advocacy of democracy and human rights. Today, he is under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery, denied the right to travel and communicate freely.

Even under house arrest, Thich Quang Do continues his peaceful campaigns for the rights of all Vietnamese. In July 2007, he broke out of house arrest to support a demonstration staged by ‘Victims of Injustice,’ a movement of farmers and peasants protesting official corruption and state confiscation of lands.

Thich Quang Do’s vision of democracy extends beyond Vietnam’s borders. In September 2007, he expressed solidarity with the democratic protests of Buddhist monks and civilians in Burma, calling for urgent United Nations action to cease the violence. The Vietnamese authorities reacted by launching a widespread vilification campaign against Thich Quang Do in the State-controlled media, threatening his imminent arrest.

Thich Quang Do was awarded the prestigious Rafto Prize in 2006 by the Norwegian Rafto Foundation for his “personal courage and perseverance through three decades of peaceful opposition against the Communist regime,” acting as a “unifying force” and a “symbol of the growing democracy movement” in Vietnam. Vietnam, unfortunately, refused to allow Thich Quang Do to travel to Norway to receive the award.

We believe that Thich Quang Do is a most worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. This award would not only honor a courageous proponent of peace, but also acknowledge the silent struggle of all those who risk their lives daily for the case of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam and elsewhere. Thus, we respectfully submit to your Selection Committee the name of Thich Quang Do as candidate for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.”