Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Vietnam detains 100 after violent protests

Vietnam detains 100 after violent protests

The protests, by thousands of people in several cities, were fueled by concerns that a draft law to develop economic zones offering land leases of up to 99 years would be dominated by investors from China, a neighbor with which Vietnam has a rocky history.

Special cases, that could lease land up to 99 years for production and business in the three special economic zones of Van Don in northern Quang Ninh province, of Bac Van Phong in central Khanh Hoa province, and of Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang province, will not be regulated in the bill.

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.

China's embassy in Hanoi has warned its citizens to be careful, referring to the protests as "illegal gatherings" that had included some "anti-China content".

Police arrested 102 protesters, the online newspaper VnExpress reported on Monday, citing local police.

"The bill is created to give a strong boost to the development of three special administrative and economic units, including Van Don in Quang Ninh province, Bac Van Phong in Khanh Hoa province and Phu Quoc in Kein Giang province, and room for institutional experiments", the government said. "The National Assembly calls on people to be calm and trust in the decisions of the party and state".

Demonstrators had gathered in various parts of the country over the weekend, including the major urban centres of Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City.

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Though the authorities often tolerate protests, rallies against China's perceived aggression and infringements upon Vietnamese sovereignty are a challenge for the government, which is keen to avoid angering a neighbor with growing military, political and economic clout.

The National Assembly was due to pass the legislation for the economic zones later this week but chose to delay the vote until its next meeting in October.

There also are ongoing rival claims between China and Vietnam over territory across the South China Sea.

Demonstrators are also objecting to a cyber security bill, scheduled for a vote on 12 June.

Authorities in Vietnam's south central province of Binh Thuan have strongly condemned a protest that broke out in the province on Sunday as "causing very serious consequences".

Roughly $5 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea annually, and a number of countries claim disputed islands there.

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