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Hanoi calls for halt to anti-China protest
by Staff Writers
Hanoi, Vietnam (UPI) Aug 19, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The Vietnamese government warned demonstrators in Hanoi to end their weekly protests against China's territorial claims in the South China Sea or face police action.

If the demonstrations, which have occurred since early June and attracted 300 or more people, aren't halted, police and security authorities will move in, an unsigned article in the government mouthpiece Ha noi Moi newspaper said.

The lengthy article entitled "Patriotism: Sober and Wise" appeared to be an iron fist in a velvet glove. The author appealed to people's nationalism, saying the government was doing all it could to peacefully engage Beijing to settle the maritime territorial disputes.

But at the same time, the article said the government and police wouldn't stand by and watch the peaceful demonstrations be hijacked by increasing foreign influences trying to divide the nation and turn it against the ruling Communist Party.

Vietnam must enlist the help of the international community to back its claim to maritime areas under 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, the author said.

The article also noted the government was monitoring blog sites that have turned aggressive in nature and attacked the resolve of the Communist Party to settle the dispute with Beijing.

The article acknowledged what it called Chinese "infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam" within its maritime continental shelf areas and "exclusive economic zones."

Specific mention was made of the May 26 incident when Hanoi claimed a Chinese fishing boat, later joined by two Chinese maritime surveillance ships, intentionally cut a cable being towed by Viking II, a Vietnamese seismic survey ship operating well within Vietnam's 200-mile economic maritime zone.

The Chinese vessel became entangled in cables and Viking II, operated by the national Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group, stopped operating and fired off a warning flare. The Chinese vessel was eventually freed with help from the two other Chinese vessels.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the Chinese actions "absolutely intentional, well-designed and well-prepared."

But tensions have been rising generally among all claimants to numerous island groupings in the South China Sea since the beginning of the year.

Ownership is important because of suspected oil and gas resources on the seabed, as well as access to plentiful fish stocks.

A major dispute is control of the Spratly Islands. Apart from China and Vietnam, the Spratly Islands, or some of them, are claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Other disputed islands are the Scarborough Shoal off the west coast of the Philippines and the Paracels, the most northerly group of islands and the ones closest to China.

In March, the Philippines officially complained to China that Chinese patrol boats allegedly harassed a Philippines oil exploration vessel in disputed waters near the Spratlys.

All countries are aware of a growing Chinese military maritime presence.

In early May China said it will beef up marine patrols by at least 10 percent in the face of what it claimed were increasing incursions into its territorial waters. By the end of the year, around 1,000 recruits will be added to the 9,000 already employed by China's marine service, Beijing said.

Fears of a tougher Chinese military presence in the South China Sea were heightened this month because of the sea trials of Beijing's first aircraft carrier -- albeit an apparently obsolete vessel bought half-finished from the Ukraine in 1998. It was launched in the late 1980s, never fitted out and was sold without weapons and engines.

Analysts have questioned its usefulness, given its age, and Beijing claimed it is for training and defensive purposes only and none of its neighbors need fear its presence in seas around China.

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Vietnam anti-China protestors reject order to stop
Hanoi (AFP) Aug 19, 2011 - Prominent Vietnamese intellectuals involved in recent anti-China protests on Friday rejected an order to halt their unprecedented rallies, but stopped short of saying they will march again.

In a petition to Hanoi's People's Committee, the local government, the group called the order illegal and denied its allegations that the protests were linked to "anti-state forces" and had caused public disorder.

"In fact, all these demonstrations took place peacefully and in order," presenting a good image of the citizens' patriotism that had been internationally recognised, said the document signed by 25 people including economists, bloggers, a former vice-minister and a retired general.

It was posted on the popular Ba Sam blog (http://anhbasam.wordpress.com) and on the Nguyen Xuan Dien site (http://xuandienhannom.blogspot.com), which has become a rallying point for the demonstrators.

The government order published Thursday in Hanoi Moi, a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, said that those who disobey and continue to gather illegally could face "necessary measures".

The demonstrations over a territorial dispute in the tense South China Sea have occurred almost every Sunday since early June and attracted up to 300 peaceful marchers -- including names on the petition.

Two protests in July were forcibly dispersed by police after talks between Hanoi and Beijing, but subsequent rallies were allowed to go ahead.

Overtly political demonstrations are rare in authoritarian Vietnam but analysts said the gatherings initially served Hanoi's purpose in expressing displeasure with Beijing.

The petitioners called the unsigned People's Committee statement illegal. They said it violated the constitutional right to demonstrate and also contradicted earlier comments by Hanoi's police chief, Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Nhanh.

He was quoted by the Tuoi Tre newspaper website on August 3 as saying the orderly demonstrators were patriotic and police had no policy of harassing or arresting them.

Vietnam and China have a longstanding dispute over sovereignty of the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups, which straddle vital commercial shipping lanes in the South China Sea.

Protests began after tensions flared in May when Vietnam said Chinese marine surveillance vessels had cut the exploration cables of an oil survey ship inside the country's exclusive economic zone.

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