Dozens of prominent members of Vietnam's Communist Party (VCP), voicing concerns over China’s actions in the South China Sea, are calling on their leaders to file a legal case against Beijing with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
The petition, obtained by VOA's Vietnamese service, has been sent to the Central Committee, the highest authority within the VCP. The move comes weeks after China moved a controversial oil rig away from disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.
In an open letter, the senior members wrote that Hanoi has paid a high price for conceding too much to China’s demands.
“The more Vietnam steps back, the more China presses ahead,” they wrote, adding that only a legal move can prove Vietnam's legitimacy over the disputed waters.
Professor Tuong Lai, a co-signer of the petition, says given Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea, it is a wakeup call to millions of other party members who have a vague idea about shared ideology with Beijing's Community Party.
“We hope that our letter would rally support from others who have the similar feelings deep down, but have not yet spoken out," he said. "We hope to provoke the strong will of those who are concerned about the fate of the country in the face of [China’s] encroachment.”
Party leaders have not yet replied to the letter, and did not respond to similar calls in the past.
As tensions between Hanoi and Beijing reached their highest level in May, Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung threatened to challenge China’s claims in an international tribunal. Since then, no such action has been taken.
Earlier this year, the Philippines filed a challenge with a United Nations tribunal over China's maritime claims. Beijing says it does not recognize international arbitration of the dispute and has refused to defend itself or otherwise take part in the proceedings.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.