Vietnam Law & Legal Forum Magazine is your gateway to the law of Vietnam

Official Gazette

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Chinese patrols capture Vietnamese fishing boats

Updated: 10:44’ - 27/07/2009

Another long sleepless night has passed for 41-year-old Bui Thi Giau in Ly Son island of the central province of Quang Ngai.

Since her husband was captured by Chinese patrol forces last month, Giau could do nothing but constantly burnt incense on the family’s altar to pray for his safety.

Giau’s husband, Duong Van Huong, was arrested together with 36 local fishermen by Chinese patrol forces when they were fishing off Hoang Sa archipelago. The fishermen were accused of “violating China’s fishery law” and ordered to pay a total fine of 210,000 Chinese yuan (roughly VND 540 million) to be released. 

Three years ago, Giau and Huong poured VND 40 million into a venture shared with 10 other fishermen to build a fishing vessel. The money came from a loan provided by the local women union and the family’s entire savings.

“The vessel and Huong are now seized but where can I find such a huge amount for the fine while we have not paid our own loan? Giau said tearfully. “It is unreasonable, our forefathers went fishing on this sea for ages. Now China declares it’s theirs and makes groundless seizures.”

Like Giau, tens of women in An Hai commune were worried about the safety of their husbands, fathers and sons who were arrested together with Huong, but could do nothing because the fine was too much for them.

On June 21, Chinese patrol forces seized three fishing boats manned by 37 fishermen from Ly Son island when they were fishing normally in the waters of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung called this action “a clear violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea,” and requested China to cease any further acts that interfere with the normal activities of Vietnamese fishermen in Vietnam’s sovereign territorial waters.

On June 22, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to the Embassy of China in Hanoi, requesting the Chinese side to immediately release the fishermen and their vessels.

On June 25, 25 fishermen safely returned to Vietnam while 12 others and two fishing boats remained in custody.

Duong Van Tho, one of the two boat owners who were released from Hoang Sa, told online news service that his vessel and the other two were approached by Chinese patrols when they were on the way to find storm shelter off Linh Con island, about 15 nautical miles east of Hoang Sa archipelago.

The Vietnamese boats were then escorted to Phu Lam island of Hoang Sa archipelago, where the three boat owners were forced to press their finger prints on sanctioning decisions with a total fine of 210,000 Chinese yuan, Tho said. After that, Tho’s vessel and 25 fishermen were released while 12 others were still detained with two vessels.

Vietnam had been requesting the Chinese side to immediately and unconditionally release 12 fishermen and their vessels, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung reaffirmed at a press conference in Hanoi on July 9.

Vietnam requested China to pay health and property damage to arrested fishermen and promptly notify Vietnam of the settlement of the case in accordance with the consular agreement between the two countries, Dung said.

The Chinese side had acknowledged Vietnam’s request and the case was being settled through the diplomatic channel, the spokesman said.

Chinese patrol’s arrest of the fishing vessels together with 37 fishermen of An Hai commune has outraged tens of thousands of fishermen in Central Vietnam, especially those in Ly Son island.

It was extremely unreasonable that Chinese patrols seized Vietnamese vessels on Vietnam’s sea, said Dang Thu, a fisherman in Ly Son. Historically, our ancestors sailed to the East Sea to place markers to mark our sovereignty on Hoang Sa archipelago. We fishermen had the rights to fish in our country’s territorial waters.

Just returning from Hoang Sa but Tho was ready for another offshore trip. Hoang Sa belonged to Vietnam, so there was no reason that we Vietnamese fishermen could not fish in our sea, he said.

Nguyen Xuan Huoc, vice president of Ly Son district People’s Committee, also said it was absurd that Vietnamese fishermen must pay fines to China for fishing in Vietnam’s sea.

Previously arrested fishermen had paid fines irrationally imposed by the Chinese side for fear of loss of life, but this must be stopped, Huoc said, stressing that this would create a bad precedent for poor fishermen to pay huge fines for doing nothing wrong.

He said local authorities had requested concerned agencies to interfere for the release of the fishermen while encouraging others to continue fishing offshore.

Quang Ngai province has asked fishermen in coastal areas to set up fishing fleets to support one another while fishing offshore at Truong Sa and Hoang Sa seas. These fleets will come to rescue or send signals to functional agencies for interference and rescue when fishermen suffer incidents.

Earlier, the Vietnam Fisheries Association had proposed the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to adopt specific measures to protect fishermen fishing in Vietnam’s seas, given China’s ban on fishing in some sea areas from May 16 to August 1, including those under Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea.

It proposed that the Government adopt timely measures to ensure life and property safety for fishermen arrested by the Chinese side.

The Department of Exploitation and Protection of Aquatic Resources had coordinated with coastal provinces, especially those in Central Vietnam, in training fishermen in the law on fisheries as well as laws of Vietnam and other countries on sea areas permitted for fishing.

It also asked provincial Agriculture and Rural Development Services to closely monitor the operation of fishermen in Vietnam’s sea areas and take prompt rescue when fishermen suffer incidents at sea.

Border and territorial disputes over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes again proved the necessity for Vietnam to adopt a law on its sea areas, which would create a higher legal basis for the country to establish the scope and regimes of Vietnam’s seas areas to protect national sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and territorial integrity and allow it to expand international cooperation at sea, experts said.

The law would also reaffirm Vietnam’s consistent position on its territorial sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.

Vietnam had issued various documents to govern activities at sea. It was the first Southeast Asian country to declare the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf with the promulgation of the Government declaration on Vietnam’s sea areas in 1977. In 1982, the Government issued a declaration on the baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea. In 1994, the National Assembly adopted a resolution to approve the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2003, the Law on National Boundary was promulgated, reaffirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.

Nevertheless, current legal documents only provided general principles for determining Vietnam’s sea areas and continental shelf without specifying the state management of the sea and the scope, legal regime of each sea area and continental shelf, experts pointed out, saying the promulgation of a law would address these issues and materialize the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention and treaties to which Vietnam is a contracting party.

In May, the Vietnamese Government submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf a report on the outer limits of Vietnam’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from its baseline.(VLLF)-



Send Us Your Comments:

See also:


Vietnam Law & Legal Forum