HANOI: A Vietnam court jailed 15 people Wednesday for up to 4.5 years for “causing public disorder” for attacking police and destroying government vehicles at explosive protests in June over a proposed investment law.
The controversial draft bill to establish special economic zones in Vietnam was met with fierce anti-China anger across the country, with protesters accusing the government of catering to Beijing with lengthy leases and low tariffs in the proposed investment areas.
China was not named in the law and the government said it would lower the proposed leases from 99 years, but it was not enough to stop the protests, which quickly spread to several cities.
The rallies turned violent in southern Binh Thuan province where demonstrators were accused of destroying government vehicles, blocking roads and badly vandalising a police station that was left littered with riot gear after officers fled.
Fifteen people were convicted for joining the violence and attacking riot police in Binh Thuan after a one-day-trial Wednesday, state media reported.
They were jailed for between two and 4.5 years, according to the Binh Thuan newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the province.
“(They) used sticks, bricks, stones and hand made bombs to attack riot police,” the newspaper said.
“They also used petroleum bombs to burn fire trucks and vehicles of riot polices and to attack police offices,” it added.
Dozens of people have been jailed over the protests, rare in the one-party state where public demonstrations of any kind are banned.
The government temporarily shelved the bill after the rallies, though Vietnam’s rubber stamp parliament could discuss the issue at a meeting next month.
Anti-China sentiment runs deep in Vietnam, which has long been locked in a dispute with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Hanoi and Beijing also fought a brief but bloody border war in 1979, a painful chapter between the communist neighbours that have struck an uneasy alliance today.
The detentions come as the communist government is accused of intensifying a crackdown on activists, with more than 40 jailed this year.
This week, three were jailed for between one year and two years three months for posting anti-government comments on Facebook.
Wednesday’s trial comes as Vietnam’s president Tran Dai Quang was honoured with a state funeral and two days of national mourning that ends Thursday with his burial.
The former police chief who died last week after a long illness gained a reputation as a committed communist — and tough leader with little tolerance for dissent.—AFP