by Aude Genet Mon Apr 28, 9:26 PM ET
HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) –‘s largest city on Tuesday readied for its leg of the troubled , eager to ensure a smooth event as some activists announced peaceful anti-Chinese protests.
TheOlympic flame arrived in late Monday from , ahead of the relay that was set to start under tight security at 6:30 pm (1130 GMT), 101 days before the start of the Games.
Some 60 runners will carry the torch from the downtown Opera House along a secret route 10 to 13 kilometres (six to eight miles) long to the Military Zone 7 Competition Hall stadium near the international airport, officials said.
The former Saigon is home to Vietnam’s largest ethnic Chinese community.
Security was expected to be tight, but city officials did not announce how many police would be deployed and remained tight-lipped about other details following the detentions last week of several anti-activists.
Pro-Tibet rallies have dogged the relay in cities including London, Paris and, but Vietnam’s mostly young and nationalist activists are driven by the country’s own long-simmering dispute with its northern neighbour.
Both Beijing andare among claimants to the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the , in a dispute that late last year triggered a series of street rallies rarely seen in Vietnam, a one-party state.
The communist leaders of Vietnam and China routinelytheir comradely ties, and Prime Minister last week promised China’s visiting Foreign Minister to stage a trouble-free torch relay.
The premier warned that “hostile forces” would seek to disrupt the event, using a standard term from the communist lexicon for pro-democracy activists.
Vietnamese police have questioned and detained some activists and Friday expelled Vietnamese-American chemical engineer Vuong Hoang Minh, who was caught with T-shirts bearing slogans including “A Gold Medal for Oppression.”
Media watchdogon Wednesday called on Vietnam to free blogger Nguyen Hoang Hai, a member of the online Union of Independent Journalists, who Vietnamese state media said was detained for tax evasion.
The small but vocal Vietnamese political activist community, based both inside the country and overseas, has made no secret of its plans to stage non-violent rallies inand Hanoi.
Taiwan-based architecture student, who uses the weblog name “Blacky,” wrote an open letter to Dung last week, announcing plans for a protest and asking for police “to ensure order and the safety of protesters.”
“If we keep silent, it means we agree to lose Hoang Sa and Truong Sa” he wrote, using the respective Vietnamese names for the Paracels and Spratlys, rocky island chains that have stirred strong passions in Vietnam.
Hundreds of youths took to the streets outside Chinese diplomatic missions here in December, in small protests that Vietnam briefly tolerated before deploying thousands of riot police in coming weeks to prevent repeat rallies.
Vietnam was ruled as a southern vassal state by China for about a millennium and was then repeatedly invaded by successive dynasties.
Most Vietnamese folk heroes are leaders who fought back northern invaders.
China and Vietnam fought their last border war in 1979, but the leaders in Hanoi and, two of the world’s five remaining communist governments, have since normalised relations and become strong economic partners.
Vietnam readies for Olympic torch relay, security tight
Vietnamese police officers patrol around the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Tuesday, April 29, 2008. The 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay in Vietnam will start from the Opera House Tuesday evening.
(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)
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