Several Vietnamese Activists Detained, Many Others under House Arrest on 30th Anniversary of Gac Ma Loss to China

Activists Nguyen Bich Hanh and Huynh Ngoc Chenh hold banners to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in East Sea

Defend the Defenders, March 14, 2018

On March 14, Vietnam’s authorities detained several activists and placed many others on the 30th anniversary of the loss of Gac Ma (South Johnson Reef), one of islands of the Spratlys in the South China Sea, to China.

Mrs. Nguyen Thuy Hanh and Mr. Truong Van Dung were detained by security forces in Hanoi after a meeting at around 9 AM in the Le Thai To King monument in the city’s center of activists who gathered there to commemoraize the 64 fallen naval soldiers killed by the People’s Liberation Army of China on March 14, 1988 when it invaded the island controlled by Vietnam.

Blogger and pro-democracy activist Huynh Ngọc Chenh, the husband of Hanh, was also detained by security force at 6 PM when he went to a police station under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security where Hanh was held. Police confiscated his cell phone and rudely treated him, said Chenh, who was an experienced journalist of the state-run media.

During 10-hour detention, Hanh was interrogated by security officers about her activities which aim to help prisoners of conscience and protect the country’s sovereignty. As Hanh’s blood pressure fell, police released the couple so Chenh was permitted to take his wife to a local hospital for urgent medical treatment.

Mr. Dung was detained two times today. Firstly, he was detained together with Hanh and released at 3 PM. When he came back together with Chenh to seek for Hanh, he was detained again. During the second detention, Dung was brutally beaten and robbed by police officers who later put him in a taxi and asked the driver to leave him on a street near his private residence in Dong Da district. He was reportedly to fall unconscious due to the assault and hospitalized in the evening of the same day, with the loss of some teet3m2071h and many injuries on his face and body.

Meanwhile, many activists in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other localities had complained that they had been placed de facto under house arrest as local authorities deployed plainclothes agents and militia to station near their private houses since the evening of March 13 until the late afternoon of March 14 to prevent them from going out.

In Hanoi, a number of activists managed to come to the Le Thai To King monument to mark the loss of Gac Ma. Many pro-government thugs also came to disturb the activists’ commemoration.

Vietnam claims Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys) in the East Sea. The first archipelago is under illegal occupation of China from 1974. China partly controls Truong Sa after invading Gac Ma and several other reefs there. Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines also hold different islands in the second archipelago.

The Chinese invasion of Gac Ma and several other islands in the East Sea allowed Beijing to claim the southern part of the East Sea. In recent years, China boosted reclamation in Truong Sa, turning the islands it took from Vietnam into military facilities.

Vietnam verbally protests China’s reclamation in Truong Sa and Hoang Sa. However, Hanoi has yet to challeng Beijing in international arbitrary course as the Philippines did in the Hague tribunal court which ruled in 2016 that China’s claim of nearly the entire East Sea is groundless.

In the same time, Hanoi has suppressed activists who have raised their voices against China’s violations of the country’s soverignty in the East Sea. A number of activists have been detained, imprisoned or harassed.

Vietnam’s communists prioritize comprehensive strategic partnership with their Chinese comrades so they have made recession to China on costs of the country’s sovereignty, said activists.