China issues warning to citizens after Vietnam protests over economic zones

Vietnam Protesters Clash With Police Over New Economic Zones (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Vietnam Protesters Clash With Police Over New Economic Zones (PHOTO, VIDEO)

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

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. It added, "The Chinese embassy in Vietnam is closely monitoring the trend".

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.

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 draft law at the centre of the furore would allow 99-year concessions in planned special economic zones, which some view as sweetheart deals for foreign and specifically Chinese firms.

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.

While some are fearful of a perceived Chinese influence in Vietnam under the economic zone proposals, others are concerned about plans for a new cyber security bill. The report said dozens of policemen were injured in the incident.

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Activists said several protesters were also detained in the country's economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City.

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.

The government has said the bill aims to boost development in three provinces in northern, central and southern Vietnam and provide "room for institutional experiments".

The decision was made after the National Assembly and the government took into account many aspects of the issue which caught interests and gathered a lot of ideas from local legislators, people of all walks of life and voters nationwide.

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

Animosity toward China runs high in Vietnam, driven in recent years by territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

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