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People's Daily Online

Fishermen recount Vietnamese provocations

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 20:50, June 13, 2014

Chinese fishermen involved in recent clashes with Vietnamese vessels in waters off China's Xisha Islands have witnessed Vietnamese provocations to harass and disturb oil drilling operations.

'Each day, dozens of armed Vietnamese vessels entered our territorial waters around the oil drilling site. They forcibly intruded into our escort ships and made provocative gestures to humiliate Chinese crew,' said Lin Wei, a fisherman from Sanya City in China's southernmost island province of Hainan.

'When they approached our ships, they gestured at us to chase after them in a provocative way, or took their pants off as an insult, and even peed toward us to make us angry,' Lin said.

'When we tried to drive them away, they would shoot photos or videos. We did not know it was a set-up until we saw media reports. They were twisting the truth,' said Lin.

Vietnamese media reported that Chinese military vessels 'deliberately' collided with and fired water cannons at Vietnamese coast guards and fishery surveillance forces.

'It's the Vietnamese vessels that intentionally escalated the provocations,' Lin said.

'Their harassment was well-plotted. Sometimes, Vietnamese vessels with banners that said 'Sino-Vietnam good-neighborly friendship' written in Chinese were first sent to approach us to look at our situation, and more offending vessels were sent later,' said Wang Shumao, a fisherman from Tanmen, a fishing town in Hainan.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of 5 p.m. on June 7, there were as many as 63 Vietnamese vessels in the area at the peak, attempting to break through China's cordon and ramming the Chinese government ships a total of 1,416 times.

Lin and Wang, who returned from fishing in the South China Sea after the country's annual fishing ban in the area starting last month, have volunteered to join the government escort mission.

Chinese maritime authorities enforce a two-and-a-half-month-long fishing moratorium in the South China Sea each year to conserve fishery resources. The moratorium lasts from May 16 to August 1 this year.

'On my way back, I saw many Vietnamese vessels fishing in our traditional waters. When we were letting the sea take a break, they were greedily exploiting it. This made me decide to join the escort,' Lin said, noting that Vietnam doesn't have a fishing off-season.

Like Lin and Wang, many Chinese fishermen have expressed their anger over the illegal intrusion of Vietnamese vessels.

'The South China Sea is our ancestral sea, whereas there are so many Vietnamese boats now. We will fight for our rights. If we lose the ancestral sea, we would be ashamed to be buried in our ancestral graves,' said Feng Mingfang, who has been fishing in the waters off the Xisha Islands for 24 years.

'I'm 62 years old now, my son is 39 and my grandson is 18. To pass the sea to our offspring, the three generations of us will fight to the end for the country's rights. If the country calls, I will fight even when I reach my 80s,' said Wang Shubiao, a fisherman from Tanmen.

Vietnam has obstructed the drilling of a Chinese oil company in waters 17 nautical miles from China's Zhongjian Island, part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, since May 2.

In mid-May, a series of riots hit foreign companies in Vietnam, leaving five Chinese nationals dead. Around 20 foreign factories were burned down and some 1,100 foreign companies were affected following the Vietnamese disruptions to the drilling operation.

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