Police break up new anti-China demo in Vietnam

Demonstrations are rare in communist Vietnam and typically quashed quickly by police.

Last Updated: Jul 17, 2011, 10:50 AM IST

Hanoi: Vietnamese police rounded up at least 10 people as they forcibly broke up an anti-China rally on Sunday after a series of protests over tensions in the South China Sea.

Around 50 demonstrators, greatly outnumbered by the security forces, were stopped and forced to disperse after they gathered close to the Chinese embassy in the capital Hanoi.

"Down with China! Down with arresting patriotic people!" shouted the protesters as they waved banners denouncing Chinese "violations" of Vietnamese sovereignty.

It was the seventh in an unprecedented series of protests -- uncommon in authoritarian Vietnam -- that have taken place in Hanoi on recent weekends during an escalating maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

The two communist neighbours have long been at odds over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups, which straddle vital commercial shipping lanes in the South China Sea.

Authorities in Hanoi allowed the first five protests to proceed without incident, but briefly detained 10 people, including journalists, during the rally last Sunday after talks with China in Beijing on June 25.

At the meeting, both sides agreed to resolve their territorial disputes peacefully. Beijing and Hanoi "also laid stress on the need to steer public opinion in the correct direction", the official Vietnam News said.

Tensions flared in May when Vietnam said Chinese marine surveillance vessels cut the exploration cables of an oil survey ship and Hanoi has accused its neighbour of harassing Vietnamese fishing boats in the disputed waters.

On Friday, Vietnam and the United States began a joint naval drill in the South China Sea, despite Chinese objections.

Bureau Report