Many Vietnamese law experts have condemned China’s recent pursuit and subsequent firing at a Vietnamese fishing boat in the waters off Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago. They consider the incident to be inhuman and boldly in violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Commenting on the incident, which involved a fishing boat from the central province of Quang Ngai on March 20, lawyer Truong Xuan Tam, a member of the National Lawyers Council and deputy president of the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province Bar Association, pointed out that China has not stopped at threatening to use force, but it has actually used force in violating Vietnam’s sovereignty.
“We need to consider taking proceedings against China to the International Court of Justice to claim compensation for Vietnamese fishermen for their damage and demand that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty,” the lawyer said.
Tam condemned the incident as extremely dangerous and a bold, rough and defiant violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Another lawyer, Hoang Ngoc Giao, head of the Research Institute for Policy, Law and Development, said: “No armed conflict has taken place between China and Vietnam, but China has used force towards Vietnamese civilians. As far as I know, no country has behaved as badly as China in this case.”
The former Vietnamese consul general to China’s Guangzhou Province, Duong Danh Hy, also condemned the aggressive action. “The attack on fishermen is a bold escalation by China in violating Vietnam’s sovereignty. Besides the objections made through diplomatic channels, we must pay more attention to protecting the lives of our fishermen.”
Nguyen Ngoc Duc, Chief of the Secretariat of the Vietnamese Fishery Association, said the organization has proposed that relevant Vietnamese agencies take measures to “prevent wrong actions by China, safeguard the life and property of Vietnamese fishermen, and protect Vietnam’s sovereignty over its seas and islands.”
As previously reported, the QNg 96382 TS fishing boat from Quang Ngai was conducting normal fishing activity in the traditional fishing ground around the Hoang Sa archipelago when it was chased and shot at by Chinese vessels on March 20. The assault caused a fire that burned the boat’s cabin.
In answering reporters’ queries regarding Vietnam’s response to the incident, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said this was an extremely serious act that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the archipelago and threatened the lives of, and caused damage to, Vietnamese fishermen. It also seriously violates the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), breaches the principles of international law and the agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of sea issues between Vietnam and China, Nghi added.
Meanwhile, at a press conference on March 26, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China had taken unspecified but "legitimate and reasonable" actions against Vietnamese boats working “illegally in Chinese waters”. He denied that any boats had been damaged.
In a statement released the same day, the Chinese Defense Ministry also refuted the incident and said that a Chinese navy vessel had fired two flares into the air after four Vietnamese fishing boats failing to respond to whistles, shouts and signal flags requesting that they stop fishing and leave the area, which China claims as its territorial waters.