Vietnamese commemorate anniversary of border war with China

More than 100 Vietnamese gather to commemorate anniversary of deadly border war with China

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Residents hold banners that say "Feb. 17, 1979, People will not forget" as more than 100 Vietnamese people gather in central Hanoi on Feb. 17, 2016 to commemorate the anniversary of Vietnam's brief but bloody border war with China.

More than 100 people gathered in Hanoi on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the start of Vietnam's brief but bloody border war with China.

Thirty seven years ago, 600,000 Chinese troops invaded northern Vietnam to "teach Vietnam a lesson" for ousting the Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. China withdrew its troops after a month.

The residents lit incense Wednesday and laid flowers at the statue of King Ly Thai To, a Vietnamese hero, in a ceremony that lasted an hour. They chanted "down with the aggressors," and "Hoang Sa, Truong Sa," the Vietnamese terms for the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

The Paracels are claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan, while the Spratlys are claimed in all or parts by those three along with the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Anti-China protesters pray and lay flowers during a gathering to mark the 37th anniversary of the border war between Vietnam and China, at a public park in Hanoi on February 17, 2016. (Reuters)

The commemoration took place even though large gatherings without government approval are often stopped by the police.

There have been no official government commemorations of the war.

The Vietnamese Communist Party and government celebrated the victories over the French and then the Americans, but they "appear to forget about the border war with China and the days when China occupied Hoang Sa and Truong Sa," said one participant, Nguyen Huu Hop.

Hop said he volunteered to go to the border fight the Chinese, but that his unit was instead stationed in the capital Hanoi. He said many young men in his neighbourhood were killed in the war.

Musician Ta Tri Hai plays the violin as anti-China protesters hold placards which read "People never forget 17th February, 1979" during a gathering to mark the 37th anniversary of the border war between Vietnam and China on February 17, 2016. (Reuters)

After China withdrew its troops, periodical fighting continued along the border for another 10 years before the communist neighbours normalised diplomatic relations in 1991.

China is now Vietnam's largest trading partner, but relations have plunged following China' parking of an oil rig near the Paracels in May 2014.

The countries have since then tried to mend ties by exchanging high-level visits, but tensions remain over the islands.

TRTWorld, AP