HANOI - Peaceful protests erupted in major cities across the country over the weekend, with demonstrators shouting slogans demanding China to remove its oil rig from Vietnamese waters.
In Ha Noi, demonstrators gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy on Hoang Dieu Street and Lenin Park on Sunday, carrying slogans such as "Haiyang 981 get out of Viet Nam" and "We are with the government in protecting the nation, Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly)."
The demonstrations attracted people from all walks of life: war veterans, students, youngsters, intellectuals, office workers and elders, all chanting and singing patriotic songs. Many young protesters wore T-shirts bearing the image of "Uncle Ho".
"Our generation has already shed too much blood to protect the country. We don't want this generation to deal with this. Our sovereignty must be protected," war veteran Nguyen Ngoc Thach told online newspaper Vnexpress.
Social media was flooded with news about China's acts and Viet Nam's reactions, with users calling on one another to spread words of patriotism and join the protests.
In HCM City, about 5,000 people gathered in the downtown area over the weekend, marching toward the Chinese Consulate General's office on Hai Ba Trung Street.
Trinh Quoc Tuan, 30, who carried his 18-month-old baby in the protest, said that even though patriotism was something that not many people thought about day to day, he wanted to show that it still exists.
"I want to instill a sense of patriotism in my child even though she's still very young," Tuan said. "I'm very pleased to join people that I have never met as we stand together for this same cause."
In the central city of Da Nang, local government and people decried China's unilateral action of bringing an oil drilling rig and a large number of vessels including military ships into Viet Nam's waters, Da Nang Today reported.
Chairman of the Da Nang War Veterans' Association Thai Thanh Hung said that the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos belonged to Viet Nam, making clear that the association completely supported the State's policy of settling disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means on the basis of international laws and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In addition, it was essential to find solutions for sea-related issues that were acceptable to both the Vietnamese and Chinese sides, he said.
Former Chairman of the Hoang Sa Island District People's Committee Dang Cong Ngu said that the Chinese drilling rig was located within Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Thus, China was seriously violating international law, UNCLOS and a 2011 agreement on settlement of sea-related issues.
According to Ngu, China's recent actions proved clearly that the neighbouring country was intentionally infringing on Viet Nam's sovereignty as part of a strategy to gain exclusive rights over the East Sea.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Da Nang Fishery Association Tran Van Linh said it was illegal and morally wrong for China to place its rig in waters where Vietnamese people had conducted legal fishing activities for centuries.
On behalf of the association's staff members, Linh demanded that China immediately withdraw its drilling rig and vessels from Viet Nam's waters. In addition, he requested that the country stop chasing away Da Nang fishing vessels and other Vietnamese boats that were operating legitimately in their national waters.