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April 29, 2008

Witnesses: police arrest several ahead of torch relay in Vietnam

2008-04-29 11:40:35 –

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam police broke up a demonstration Tuesday against China’s policies ahead of the final international leg of the Olympic torch relay, witnesses said.
Officers detained several people for unfurling a banner and shouting, «Boycott the Beijing Olympics» through a megaphone in a market in the capital, Hanoi, two  witnesses said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were afraid of  getting into trouble with authorities in this communist country.

Police refused to comment on the incident.

Though the protest was in northern Hanoi, the relay is being held in southern Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.
Several police officers were stationed close to the starting point outside the city’s 19th-century opera house. Earlier, a group of pro-China supporters rallied there, waving flags and shouting slogans.

The parade was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. (1100 GMT).

Vietnam has assured its communist ally and giant northern neighbor it will not let demonstrators disrupt the parade, though students have threatened to protest China’s claim to the Spratly Islands, claimed by both countries and several others.

The torch arrived in Vietnam Monday night from North Korea, where tens of thousands of citizens were mobilized to celebrate the relay in Pyongyang in the flame’s first visit to the authoritarian nation.

Vietnamese authorities have given few details about the relay event in their country, including its route, apparently for security reasons.

China and Vietnam fought a border war in 1979, but relations have improved greatly in recent years.
At many of its 18 stops the relay has been beset by protests against China’s human rights record and a recent crackdown in Tibet following anti-government riots. Large groups of flag-waving Chinese have also turned out at various points in the relay, sometimes clashing with protesters.

From Vietnam the flame will travel to the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau before heading to the mainland, including the restive Tibet region and the top of Mount Everest.


Hanoi breaks up protest before torch relay leg

Hanoi (dpa) – At least six people protesting the Beijing Olympics were detained Tuesday in Hanoi ahead of the Olympic torch relay through Ho Chi Minh City later in the day.

Two men hoisted banners with the words “Beijing 2008” and a design depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs at Hanoi’s Dong Xuan market before being hustled away by dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

A desk officer at the local police station said a police rapid reaction unit had brought in six detainees Tuesday morning but would not release their names.

Larger Hanoi demonstrations called for on the blogs of local democracy activists seemed not to have materialised. Police were present in unusual numbers at the Chinese embassy and at Dong Xuan market before the demonstration had begun.

Exile Vietnamese pro-democracy groups said a much larger group of demonstrators had been detained by police on their way to a protest at Hoan Kiem lake, but these arrests could not be verified.

Vietnamese democracy bloggers called for more protests later Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City.

The protests in Vietnam are oriented toward Vietnamese resentment of China’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel islands, two possibly oil-rich archipelagos in the South China Sea over which Vietnam also claims sovereignty

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