Vietnam condemns Chinese oil rig

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other defense ministers watch a Vietnamese Guard of Honor troop review at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Minister' Meeting Retreat at the National Convention Center Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. DOD photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison(RELEASED)

A Vietnam People’s Navy honour guard. Source: Wikipedia

Hanoi has warned Beijing not to drill in the contested waters of the South China Sea, after Beijing steered an oil rig into an area claimed by Vietnam.

The oil rig in mid-2014 sparked a diplomatic rift when the Chinese stationed it for 10 weeks in waters claimed by Vietnam.

The nominally communist neighbours exchange more than US$60 billion in trade annually.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the rig had been moved into an area claimed by both countries.

“Vietnam requests China does not conduct drilling actions and withdraw Hai Duong 981 from this area,” Binh said, referring to the rig by the Vietnamese name.

“Vietnam reserves all legal rights and interests to this area, which are in accordance with international laws.”

China made no comment about the US$1 billion deep-water rig, known as Haiyang Shiyou 981 in China.

The complaint comes after Vietnam condemned China’s test flights to an artificial island in the Spratly archipelago.

China claims to the South China Sea compete with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. An estimated US$5 trillion in trade passes through the waters annually.

On Tuesday protesters held an anti-China protest in Hanoi to mark the 42nd anniversary of China taking full control of the Paracel islands.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch in New York has called on Vietnam’s Communist Party to hold democratic elections to pick the country’s leaders.

The Communist Party Congress is scheduled to meet from January 21 to 28 in Hanoi where 1,510 party members will select the Central Committee of the Party which then elects the national leaders. Formally, the rubber-stamp National Assembly then picks the president and prime minister.

“The future of more than 90 million Vietnamese should not be decided by a small group of Communist Party officials,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Vietnam should finally adhere to its international legal commitments and allow an election by its citizens instead of yet another selection by the ruling party.”

The elections are stage managed for the National Assembly every five years. Opposition parties are not allowed to organise or contest elections.

“With a monopoly on power, the Communist Party operates as a de facto government, controlling the country through a battery of broad and vague provisions in its penal code and other laws to silence and imprison critics and those calling for democracy,” Human Rights Watch said.

Referring to the country’s “dismal” human-rights situation, it called for reforms including the repeal of laws that allow peaceful critics to be turned into political prisoners.

From June 2012 until November 2015 Hanoi reported that the police had arrested 2,680 people for unspecified national security offences and targeted more than 60 groups promoting democracy and human rights.