Hanoi. About 200 Vietnamese protesters marched around the capital’s landmark lake on Sunday demanding that China stay out of Vietnam’s territory, despite a new plan for Beijing and its neighbors to work together to resolve disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The demonstration — the latest in a series of protests held on weekends for the past two months — went on despite a crackdown by police over the past two weeks in which protesters were detained and hauled away on buses, with some of the demonstrators beaten.
Vietnam and the Philippines have voiced loud recent complaints, accusing China of interfering with their oil and gas exploration activities in areas of the South China Sea claimed all or in part by the three countries and others.
Last week during a regional security meeting in Bali, Indonesia, China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to a preliminary plan to resolve territorial disputes in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called for all of the countries to map out their claimed territory according to international laws. The U.S. has said it has a national interest in seeing disputes peacefully resolved in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping lanes.
On Sunday, the Vietnamese protesters paraded around Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi, waving flags and singing the national anthem. They held signs showing the Chinese flag marked with pirates’ skulls.
Earlier this month, a group of nearly 20 outspoken Vietnamese scholars and former officials, including a former ambassador to China, submitted a petition to the country’s leaders calling for more transparency regarding the ongoing spat with China and for the government to allow peaceful protests.
Demonstrations are rare in communist Vietnam and are typically quashed quickly by police, but Hanoi has shown tolerance by allowing the rallies to take place.
“I love my country,” said Minh Hang, 48, who was leading chants through a loudspeaker Sunday despite being arrested during last week’s protest. “The people who arrested me for unjust reasons are not patriotic. The country belongs to the people. It doesn’t belong to anyone but the people.”