Twenty Vietnamese fishing boats taking shelter from a tropical depression near the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the East Vietnam Sea on Monday were chased away by Chinese vessels, Vietnamese authorities said on Tuesday.
The fishing boats, which had set sail from the north-central province of Quang Ngai, were caught in a tropical depression that formed in the East Vietnam Sea on Monday.
The fleet with 100 Vietnamese fishermen on board had maneuvered to safety near the Bach Quy (Passu Keah) Reef at 11:00 am the same day, before they were chased away by some Chinese vessels, according to Vietnam’s National Committee on Disaster Response, Search and Rescue.
The Bach Quy Reef is a part of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa Islands, which have been illegally occupied by Chinese forces since 1974.
Captains of the Vietnamese ships asked Vietnamese authorities to work with their Chinese counterparts in allowing the ships to be anchored near the island for safety reasons.
The search and rescue committee has therefore requested that the Consular Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs inform Chinese authorities on the situation and make every effort to ensure the safety of Vietnamese fishing boats operating in the East Vietnam Sea.
The Vietnamese coordination center for search and rescue missions at sea has also notified their Chinese counterpart about the distressed ships and asked for assistance in possible rescue missions.
Authorities in Vietnam have been put on high alert to swiftly response to any negative developments concerning the fishing boats.
Chinese vessels are known to have ambushed Vietnamese fishing ships conducting legal fishing activities in the East Vietnam Sea in the past.
In March, two Vietnamese fishing ships reported to a local border guard unit that they had been ambushed by Chinese vessels and robbed off their fishing equipment while operating near the Hoang Sa Islands.
A week earlier, a vessel from Quang Ngai was also ambushed and had its fishing equipment destroyed by Chinese men while operating near the Tri Ton (Triton) Island in Hoang Sa.