News / Asia

Anti-China Protesters in Hanoi Mark Border War Anniversary

Protesters lay wreaths at a pagoda on Hoan Kiem lake, Vietnam.
Protesters lay wreaths at a pagoda on Hoan Kiem lake, Vietnam.
Marianne Brown
Around 100 people marched through the center of Hanoi Sunday to commemorate the 35th anniversary of a brief but bloody border war with China.

Anti-China protesters marched around a lake in the center of Hanoi Sunday morning to commemorate 35 years since Chinese troops embarked on a near month-long invasion of northern Vietnam. Participants carried flowers and wore headbands that said “the people will never forget.”

Chinese troops moved in on February 17, 1979, shortly after Vietnam invaded Cambodia, which was at the time led by Chinese-ally the Khmer Rouge. Around 21,000 people are believed to have died on both sides, although neither government has released official figures.

The war is still a very sensitive subject in Vietnam because of the delicate diplomatic relationship with China. Student Kim Bich Ngoc, 20 years old, said her teachers warned her she would be kicked out of university if she attended anti-China protests.

" I never learned about it at school...The government don’t want Vietnamese people to know about that because they are afraid it will affect the relationship between Vietnam and China," said Ngoc.

The protesters had originally intended to lay the flowers at the statue of national icon Ly Thai To, but the area around the statue was packed with members of aerobics and ballroom dance clubs.

Many protesters said they believed the government had arranged the activities so they could not gather there.

Among the crowd was Nguyen Tri Dung, the son of political blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who wrote under the pen name Dieu Cay.

Nguyen Van Hai took part in protests as early as 2008 against Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, which overlap with Vietnam’s own claims. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for conducting propaganda against the state.

Dung says he believes the Vietnamese government does not want people to learn about the border war with China.

"I had to find for myself the real history (about the war) on the Internet," he said. "I came here today to acknowledge the real history. I didn’t learn anything at school about it. I didn’t even know there was a war between the Vietnamese and Chinese at that time."

While the Vietnamese government does at times protest Chinese actions in areas of the South China Sea, which it also claims, coverage of the two countries diplomatic relations is strictly controlled in the Vietnamese media.

China is one of Vietnam’s largest trading partners. Dung says he believes this is why the government does not want young people to know about the war.

"I think it’s because the Vietnamese are afraid to tell the truth, to let the young people know... the government depends a lot on China," he said.

Similar rallies have often been broken up by police with tens of participants detained. Despite being closely followed by uniformed and plain-clothed police, the protesters were eventually allowed to lay flowers at a pagoda and go home.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
February 21, 2014 11:22 AM
The Sino-Vietnam war of 1979 was a short but bloody coflict. High casualties were on both sides. The PLA outnumbered the Vietnamese Army but the Vietnamese fought well. The PRC claims it never invaded another country but they forget about Vietnam, Tibet, India and its border conflicts w/ the former USSR. Ho Chi Minh never trusted China & said he would rather eat French dung than smell Chinese dung. LOL!

by: Aviv from: Asia
February 17, 2014 4:42 AM
Actually this is a very sensitive diplomatic issue in Vietnam, so that in some way Vietnamese government has to tackle with that carefully. However, they don't find out the rational measures yet which won't upset both its people and the great friend from the North.

by: Garba Alage from: niger
February 17, 2014 1:59 AM
in all cases vietnameses must know what happened durant this war.because a people's history is very important.a people must know its past.and then they will be able to decide what to do about their future relationship with china

by: Taichi Robinhood
February 16, 2014 6:41 PM
But there is one thing that the Vietnamese should remember, without the assistance of China, the Vietnamese could not have defeated the France and the U.S.
In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
February 16, 2014 11:19 PM
Pls keep in mind that China has never given anything for free. Sometimes it helps you in order to take much more from you. China has invaded Vietnam for countless times in history. China never wants Vietnam to defeat France or the US. China only uses Vietnam as a bargain, just as North Korea now. In fact Vietnam won those two wars with the decisive help from the USSR.

by: Henry Phan from: Columbia, SC
February 16, 2014 3:25 PM
When I was in Vietnam, I did not know anything regarding Vietnam/China due to Vietnamese government does not reveal the truth. I strongly believe such a hidden action by Vietnamese gov. is totally wrong. Let history to be history and we all should be respectful history.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs