Police fail to intervene against rare Hanoi protest over Chinese oil and gas exploration move in South China Sea
A group of Vietnamese have marched through the streets of Hanoi shouting “Down with China!” in a rare protest following growing tensions over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
About 200 people chanted in the rain, some waving flags and holding signs, as they walked through the centre of the capital towards the Chinese embassy. Police stopped traffic and did not attempt to stop the event, but the area near the embassy was cordoned off.
The protest follows China’s recent announcement that it will open nine oil and gas lots for development to international bidders, even though the area overlaps with Vietnam’s exploration contracts.
“We are very angry with China’s recent offer to look for oil inside Vietnam’s territory,” said Phuong Bich, 53, who was arrested three times last year during similar demonstrations that were broken up. “We urge the government to take action.”
Hanoi says the area identified by the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) lies within Vietnam’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. State-owned PetroVietnam has encouraged foreign companies to ignore China’s offer and said it would continue working on contracts signed with ExxonMobil, Russia’s Gazprom, India’s ONGC and PetroVietnam affiliate PVEP.
Rhetoric between the two communist neighbours has become increasingly hostile in recent weeks. Beijing’s defence ministry said it had “battle-ready” patrols protecting its interests in the South China Sea and warned Vietnam to stop its reported aerial patrols of the disputed Spratly Islands.
Contested areas of the South China Sea are a long-standing source of animosity between Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. Disputed territory straddles international shipping lanes and is believed to be teeming with fish and rich in oil and gas reserves.
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