Vietnamese angry over Beijing plans to develop disputed marine territory
Vietnamese marched through Hanoi’s streets shouting “Down with China!” in a rare protest yesterday, amid 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 capital towards the Chinese embassy. Police did not attempt to stop the march, 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 in similar protests. “We urge the government to take action.”
Hanoi says the area the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) has identified lies within Vietnam’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. State-owned PetroVietnam has encouraged foreign companies to ignore China’s offer and says it will continue working on contracts signed with ExxonMobil, Russia’s Gazprom and India’s ONGC.
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 back off its reported aerial patrols of the disputed Spratly Islands.
Contested areas of the South China Sea straddle important shipping lanes and are believed to be teeming with fish and rich in oil and gas reserves.
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