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Vietnam Deports Chinese Workers Amid Rising Nationalist Sentiment

FILE - Protesters hold marked images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and anti-China signs during a protest ahead of his recent visit to Vietnam, on the street in Hanoi, Nov. 3, 2015.

Authorities of the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang have fined and expelled 64 Chinese citizens who were found to have worked in the coastal city on tourist visas.

State media quoted local officials as saying an influx of illegal Chinese workers is “causing complications to social management.”

The case of a Chinese man who allegedly engaged in unlawful tourist business and was shot dead last month by another compatriot over trading disputes raised the alarm for authorities of the city, which is known for maintaining social order.

Over the last few years, many anti-China rallies have taken place across Vietnam to oppose what many see as Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea. Anti-China sentiments have continued to run high in Vietnam since Beijing said it would not cease building on artificial islands in contested waters of the South China Sea.

Anti-corruption activist Le Hien Duc, one of the most vocal anti-China protesters in Vietnam, said she welcomed the expulsions.

“The authorities should be heavy-handed [in dealing with the Chinese]. They need not to be scared," she said. "We took to the streets to rally against China because of the need for the protection of the Spratlys and Paracels [in the South China Sea] as well as of Vietnam’s territory amid Beijing’s encroachment.”

The news came shortly after dozens of local residents were discovered to have dodged laws to help Chinese citizens acquire coastal land facing the South China Sea, deemed as strategically sensitive in terms of security and defense.

'Betray the country'

The Chinese reportedly gave money to local residents to buy real estate in the city because foreigners are not allowed to purchase land in Vietnam.

Thu Diem, a real estate agent in the city, said the practice was widespread.

“As it is an underground activity, it is difficult to clearly know what is going on," Diem said. "The Chinese obviously want to occupy our land. They get our land through our own people for purposes which are not beneficial to our country. That’s why we are upset.”

Meanwhile, Thanh Tam, another resident in Da Nang, said Chinese citizens mainly acquired land in areas near a military airport used by American forces in the Vietnam War. He said there were areas reserved for Chinese citizens on which he could not set foot, and that made him feel “uneasy.”

A senior Da Nang official declined to publicly debate the issue when it was raised by voters at a meeting Thursday, according to Vietnamese media reports.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.