Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Vietnam protests over feared 99-year leases for China

Vietnam protests over feared 99-year leases for China

Vietnamese police detained more than a dozen people in the capital, Hanoi, and over 100 in Binh Thuan province, in south-central Vietnam, after protesters clashed with police and stormed a government office.

"The Chinese embassy in Vietnam is paying close attention to the relevant developments and reminds Chinese citizens in Vietnam to pay attention to security when traveling", the notice said.

The police in HCMC and neighboring Binh Duong Province have arrested several people for leading the "illegal" protests, media reports said.

Vietnam has a tense relationship with China.

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Thousands of demonstrators from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City rallied against draft economic zone laws and cyberlaws being considered by the Vietnamese National Assembly that some view as curbing Internet freedom and favoring Chinese investors.

Online newspaper VnExpress quoted chairwoman of the assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as telling legislators that some people misunderstood the nature of the law and thus carried out extremist activities.

But that did not tamp down frustrations, as around 40 to 50 protesters gathered at Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake on Sunday holding signs opposing the legislation that said "Protest against the draft law on special economic zones" and "Protest against leasing land to China". The protest ended around midnight after members of the Ministry of Public Security assisted police, who were unable to disperse the crowd with smoke bombs and fire hoses.

Nhieu also said that dozens of police officers sustained injuries but there were no deaths, shutting down rumours that had spread on social media.

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The initial draft law said land in the zones could be leased for up to 99 years, but Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told local media last week the term would be reduced, although he did not say by how much.

Vietnam is among several countries in the region that have claims in the South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

The protesters assume that the Communist government will give Chinese investors a contract over three islands in the South China Sea, amid deteriorated relations between the two countries over the disputed territory there.

The protests come at a time of rising tensions over the disputed South China Sea, almost all of which is claimed by China. It was originally scheduled to be passed this week, but the government said over the weekend that the law which was created to give a "boost to development and institutional experiments" to the regions would be delayed to allow more research.

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