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Anti-China economic zone protests in Vietnam turn violent

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Protests turned violent in Binh Thuan province - where more than 100 people were detained. Photo Internet

By BBC Online
12th-Jun-2018       
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Scores of people have been detained by Vietnamese police amid protests against plans for special economic zones (SEZs) that many fear will be dominated by Chinese investors.
Molotov cocktails and rocks were lobbed at the People's Committee Headquarters in south-eastern Binh Thuan province, where police said 102 people were held.
The proposed law would give foreign investors 99-year leases on SEZ land.
MPs had been set to vote on it this week but this has been delayed.
The decision to postpone the vote in an attempt to defuse the protests was seen as a major concession by the ruling communist party in response to large-scale street demonstrations.
The chairwoman of parliament, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, said that people's opinions "will always be heard".
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". 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. Some carried anti-China banners, including one reading: "No leasing land to China even for one day."
Protests in the cities were quickly suppressed, but authorities faced much greater public anger in Binh Thuan, where demonstrators threw rocks, set vehicles alight, and briefly occupied the local government headquarters. State media outlets said dozens of police officers were injured. On Monday, police formed barricades with their shields across roads into the town, and numerous explosions could be heard, as tear gas was fired into the crowd.
At a fire station attacked by protesters, riot police are reported to have laid down their shields and equipment and withdrawn in an apparent peace gesture. The bill offers companies operating in the SEZs greater incentives and fewer restrictions, in an attempt to promote growth in target areas.
But protesters suspect that the communist government will award Chinese investors leases in the three economic zones in the north-east, south-east and south-west of the country, and that this would be a pretext for Chinese control over Vietnamese land.
In Binh Thuan, anti-Chinese sentiment combined with simmering anger over industrial pollution and land disputes, to ignite a flammable cocktail of local grievances, says BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head. Demonstrators are also objecting to a cyber security bill, scheduled for a vote on 12 June. Human Rights Watch says it would give the government broad powers to quash dissent online.

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