Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Hanoi blames ‘anti-state’ groups for violent protests


Vietnam said the groups behind Sunday’s protests against proposed laws demonstrators view as favoring Chinese investors and curbing Internet freedom were trying to damage the nation’s image, after the rare display of public activism reportedly turned violent.

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.

Protesters in the southeastern coastal province of Binh Thuan attacked the local People’s Committee with rocks and Molotov cocktails, setting ablaze motorbikes late in the evening, local media said.

“Over the past few days, some anti-state organizations have taken advantage of people’s sentiments for the nation, spreading calls on social networks, inciting people to protest and even attack authorized forces, causing public disorder and creating an image of an ‘unstable’ Vietnam,” the government-owned Vietnam News said yesterday. “This is contrary to the state and people’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic and civilized country.”

Protesters denounced a draft bill that would grant 99-year leases in economic zones to investors, sparking fears it would give those from China influence over the country.

As a result, the National Assembly yesterday voted to delay consideration of the economic zone proposal until later in the year while the 99-year lease provision was removed, according to the legislature’s Web site.

China, in a notice posted on its Hanoi embassy Web site, warned its citizens about travel in Vietnam after the demonstrations, which it called “illegal gatherings,” included “anti-China content.”

In May 2014, China’s move to send an exploration oil rig into waters contested with Vietnam triggered deadly anti-China riots and clashes at sea between coast guard boats from the two nations.

Scores of Taiwanese-owned factories and offices in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces with Chinese-language signage were attacked during those protests, leading to hundreds of Taiwanese working or living in Vietnam temporarily fleeing the country.

Demonstrators on Sunday also voiced opposition to a draft law that would require foreign Internet companies, such as Facebook and Google, to store data of local users in Vietnam and open offices in the country.

Additional reporting by staff reporter

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