June 10, 2018| Nationwide protests broke out in several major cities in Vietnam in the morning and lasted well into the afternoon. As of press time, the demonstrations are still ongoing with reports of several arrests and incidents of police assaulting protestors while observers mostly described the participants as peaceful.
This time, the protests seemed to have not been organized by any groups, and the more well-known dissidents and activists were not leading the crowd. However, it was the small groups of concerned citizens coming together with substantial knowledge on their right to assemble and protest that made June 10, 2018, both memorable and surprising to people.
People were gathering and rallying in several cities this morning, Hanoi, Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Nang, and even smaller areas such as My Tho – Tien Giang, Ho Nai – Dong Nai and a few Catholics parishes in Nghe An Province.
But it may very well be the turn of events in Saigon – Hochiminh City today that has shown a level of political awakening that many observers have not seen before.
People started to gather at around 8:30 a.m. local time, coming to several areas in Saigon, from the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in District One, walking district Nguyen Hue, in front of the U.S. Consulate, to Hoang Van Thu park near Tan Son Nhat airport. From around 500 people at one area to thousands more at another spot.
The participants have used the Livestream feature on Facebook to record the protests where they showed how knowledgeable the regular persons could be when it comes to their rights as citizens.
People at one location, while demanding that the police released those who were arrested, have questioned them:
“Have you read the Constitution. Do you know what Article 25 is? Do you know that arresting protestors is unconstitutional?”
Even when faced with assaults from police and security forces, the videos showed people were trying to tell each other to remain calm, to document the incidents with photos and videos, and do not fear because: “We did not do anything wrong!”
In Hanoi, the security forces acted swiftly in rounding up protestors and broke up the rallies. But in Saigon, thousands of people were on the streets, and by the afternoon, it seemed as if the demonstration has become unstoppable even with the police started their crackdown.
An online call to protest against the draft law creating three Special Economic Zones (SEZ) received over 160,000.00 shares on Facebook this past week. The government acted and postponed the SEZ draft law on early Saturday morning when the probability that the people will take to the streets started looming, but such efforts seemed to be futile.
The SEZ draft law was not the only bill that the citizens find problematic.
The people have a major concern regarding the SEZ draft law is because of the China factor. Anti-China rallies are nothing new in Vietnam, and for the past decades, it was the most common reason for the people to let go of their fears and gather on the streets protesting.
This time, many fear that their government has sold them short to the Chinese investors and that the SEZs will turn into mini China(s) inside Vietnam once the law goes into effect.
However, there is also the Cybersecurity draft bill pending for a vote on June 12, 2018, where Vietnam attempts to place all of its people under Big Brother’s watch, criminalizing many online activities, from misrepresenting historical facts to merely speaking unfondly of the government.
Thus, efforts were also made by several civil society groups leading by Hate Change, calling on people to also protest against the Cybersecurity draft law.
The pictures above are from today’s protests in Hanoi and Saigon-Hochiminh City. The Vietnamese thanks the owners of these pictures for their courtesy, and please contact us for photo credits because we have received them from a few sources on Facebook and Twitter.