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The 2011 Awakening Summer Protests In Vietnam: A Timeline

Graphics: MaiMai/The Vietnamese Magazin

The 2011 Awakening Summer Protests, or usually depicted as “The Flaming Summer” (Mùa Hè Đỏ Lửa), is one of the most significant social movements in Vietnam during the past few decades. Both large and small scale anti-China demonstrations, which occurred 11 times nearly every Sunday for close to three months, drew wider attention and participation in both Vietnam and the Vietnamese community overseas. The movement is said to have sparked a consequent string of anti-China protests in 2014 and 2018.

The first demonstration was initiated at the beginning of June when three Chinese sea guardships harassed the operations of Vietnamese seismic survey ships within Vietnam’s exclusive maritime territory. This was followed by a series of mass rallies against China’s hostility in two of Vietnam’s largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chí Minh City, before spreading to smaller provinces and towns.

The movement unified Vietnamese society and drew the diverse participation of people from different social classes. Many of them were famous reformists and intellectuals, retired government officials and veterans, along with business people, students, government officers, and people from all walks of life.

Here is the timeline of that movement:

MAY

May 26, 2011:

On this day, Binh Minh 02, a survey ship owned by state-run oil corporation PetrolVietnam (PVN), was confronted by Chinese patrol vessels during its seismic survey about 120 nautical miles off the coast of Phu Yen, a province in Vietnam’s south-central region. PVN claimed that the location was within the country’s exclusive maritime territory.

According to Do Van Hau, PVN’s vice president, the confrontation took place while the ship was operating its usual survey within the 125, 126, 148, 149 lot of Vietnam’s continental shelf. “The process had been carried out smoothly in the past few days,” he said. However, around 5 A.M, three Chinese patrol vessels had approached the PVN survey ship without any warning, then proceeded to cut its survey cables and continued to intimidate the ship.

After four hours of harassment, around 9 am Chinese patrol vessels eventually left the area. It was not until 6 am the next day that Binh Minh 02 was finally able to resume its normal activities, after repairing all its damaged equipment.

The incident is seen as part of China’s increasingly hostile attitude in the South China Sea, including a 9-dash line that China claims as its own. The disputed waters, which Vietnam calls the East Sea (Bien Dong), comprises two archipelagos, the Paracels (Hoang Sa) and Spratlys (Truong Sa). The sea, which spans over 1.7 million sq km, is a major maritime crossing with its potential oil and gas reserves. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brune,  and Taiwan also have territorial claims in the South China Sea.

JUNE

June 5, 2011:

Mass protests simultaneously broke out in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These demonstrations resulted from earlier acts of Chinese patrol vessels, which Hanoi said were in violation of Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty.

According to Reuters, about 300 people in Hanoi and up to one thousand in Saigon are said to have participated in the demonstrations. The crowds marched towards the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and Chinese Consulate in HCMC, while waving flags, singing patriotic songs, displaying anti-China banners, and chanting slogans “the Paracels and Spratlys belong to Vietnam,” and “we are against the illegal 9-dash line,” or “China, a giant and ill-behaved neighbor.”

From Hanoi, Nguyen Xuan Dien, an academic and one of the prominent faces in the movement, described the demonstration in detail. Around 7.30 am there were a few people gathered at several coffee shops around Lenin Park, which is located in front of the Chinese Embassy. At 8.00 am, approximately 100 people grouped and started to protest peacefully.

However, around 9.00 am, “police and security forces arrived and ordered protesters to move out of the flower garden [in Lenin park] …. They approached the crowds using a soft rope to push people away,” Dien said. The protesters later divided into two small groups, with one marching towards Hoan Kiem Lake and the other marching towards Phung Hung St, and then to Hoan Kiem Lake. The marches ended at 12 pm.

Meanwhile, in Ho Chi Minh City, some witnesses reported that police attempted to block all the roads passing the Chinese Consulate, which is located at the corner of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St. and Pham Ngoc Thach St. but somehow let the pedestrian protesters continued their walk. The protesters first gathered in front of the consulate, then marched past other major landmarks in the city, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the U.S. Consulate, and the Independence Palace.

In contrast to Hanoi, the protests in Ho Chi Minh City are said to have remained calm.

Maíntream local news agencies ran no headlines regarding the first day of the “Summer Social Movement,” possibly under instructions from the Party. Only foreign-based Vietnamese language news outlets, such as BBC, RFA, VOA, and RFI, had delivered their reports in Vietnamese about the event.

The Vietnamese government did not comment on the demonstrations.

June 9, 2011:

Another Vietnamese survey ship operating in the South China Sea, Viking 2, was harassed by a Chinese fishing vessel off the coast of Vung Tau City. Viking 2 is a survey ship chartered by PVN to conduct seismic surveys. The incident, which happened around 6 am, was only two weeks after Chinese patrol vessels first attacked another Vietnamese ship, causing it to delay operations.

According to Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga, the ship had been operating in “Vietnam’s continental shelf.” The spokeswoman accused the Chinese fishing boat of running at high speed past the Viking 2 and deploying a “cable cutting device” to disrupt the ship’s activities. Two Chinese ships then came to help the fishing vessel out after it got entangled in a network of underwater cables.

“The aforementioned actions of Chinese fishing vessels are completely deliberate, carefully calculated and prepared, which seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty, jurisdiction rights and 1982 United Nations Convention on the Maritime Laws and Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC),” Nga affirmed. She also requested China “halt and stop repeating the actions of violating [Vietnam’s] sovereignty,” as well as “recompense all the damage caused to PVN.”

Vietnamese foreign ministry representatives met their counterparts in the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi to express opposition to the incident.

In the evening of the same day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a condemnation, accusing Vietnam of “gravely violating” Chinese sovereignty and endangering its sailors.

In a statement on the ministry website, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei asserted that “the Vietnamese ship put the lives and safety of the Chinese fishermen in serious danger” and his country “was the victim in the latest encounter.” He also accused Vietnam of violating China’s claims in the Spratly archipelago, a cluster of islands that Vietnam refers to as Hoang Sa.

“It must be pointed out that by conducting unlawful oil and gas surveys in seas around the Wan’an Bank of the Spratly archipelago and by driving out a Chinese fishing vessel, Vietnam has gravely violated China’s sovereignty and maritime rights,” said the minister.

Earlier, Vietnam certified the location where the incident happened was in block 136.03, which is “completely within the exclusive economic zone” of the country.

June 12 2011:

One week after the first scores of protests broke out, protesters in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City once again poured onto the streets to voice their objection to the latest incident, as tensions in the South China Sea were boiling high.

Security forces were fully mobilized to guard several sensitive hotspots in both cities. In Hanoi, the roads leading to the Chinese Embassy were occupied by the police. Riot police were also said to be present around Lenin Park and major intersections.

At 8.00 am around 100 protesters started to gather in the park. Half an hour later, the group started to march towards the city center and around Hoan Kiem Lake, where they were supported by some observers and joined by a handful of others. Besides displaying patriotic banners, people also asked China to “implement the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC).” The protest ended two hours later.

Another protest also took place in Ho Chí Minh City, where protesters gathered around 9.30 am and then marched through the city center and past various diplomatic agencies, including the Chinese Consulate. The rally was reported to be larger than the one in Hanoi.

Several international news channels confirmed that the Vietnamese authorities had shown some tolerance to the latest anti-China protests; however, security was heavily tightened in both cities. In Ho Chí Minh City, it was also reported that several protesters had been taken away by the security forces. Meanwhile, some universities threatened to expel students if they joined the anti-China demonstrations.

June 19, 2011:

The third wave of mass demonstrations broke out in Hanoi and Ho Chí Minh City. Popular and influential figures had also joined the movement, including professor Nguyen Quang A (Director of the Institute of Development Research - IDS), Professor Ngo Duc Tho, Pham Hong Son, and Attorney Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, etc.

In Hanoi, the security forces initially used public speakers to call for peaceful demonstrations so as to “keep a harmonious relationship between the two countries.” The police began to interfere after demonstrators peacefully rallied for around 40 minutes, explaining that their voices “had been heard” and these activities could further “complicate” diplomatic efforts between Vietnam and China. However, people refused to comply and still marched through the city streets.

According to unverified reports, there were some calls for demonstrations in other cities, namely Vinh in Nghe An Province and Da Nang. However, these protests were unable to happen due to the strong police presence.

In Ho Chí Minh City, the organizers found it difficult to host the rally due to a high number of security forces and plainclothes police at the time. Dan Lam Bao (Civil Journalist), an independent news media, reported that coffee shops and parking lots where protesters normally gather were forced to close on that day. The source also claimed that police had deployed signal interference equipment, as well as arrested and deterred “important inciters” from participating in the protests.

June 26, 2011:

About 100 people marched around Hoan Kiem Lake in the fourth demonstration following China’s violation of Vietnamese maritime sovereignty. According to AFP, security forces outnumbered the protesters and tried to disassemble the rally, but were met with opposition.

The movement is spreading to other parts of the country as well. Dan Lam Bao reported that a similar event took place in Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, where young people, intellectuals and artists gathered in front of a mall to voice their objections. Meanwhile, security forces in Saigon were fully deployed to detect and deter any demonstrations.

At the same time, a proclamation drafted by a group of influential intellectuals and reformists in Saigon began circulating on the internet. The document, titled “Proclamation on the Chinese government’s continuous aggressive actions,” called for the government and Party leaders, along with the National Assembly, to take drastic measures against China’s invasion of Vietnamese territory. The proclamation also urged the authorities not to deter people from partaking in peaceful demonstrations.

Nearly 100 people had signed the petition, including a number of intellectuals, revolutionary veterans, and former government officials, both in Vietnam and abroad.

JULY

July 3, 2011:

July 3 marked the fifth consecutive Sunday of public demonstrations in response to China’s hostile actions in the disputed South China Sea which is called the East Sea (Biển Đông) in Vietnam.

Flagpole Cafe, a coffee shop where protesters often gathered in Hanoi, was closed and this made it harder for people to assemble. Police also set up barriers in the area around the Chinese Embassy and blocked the entrance to Lenin Park.

Nguyen Quang A, an academic who also participated in the previous protests in Hanoi, shared his experience with RFI, saying that “around 200 people” joined the protest, similar to the scale of the last demonstration on June 5. However, this time there was a “high presence of riot police and security forces,” according to Dr. A. “The police didn’t allow protesters to reach Lenin Park, which is situated in front of the Chinese Embassy. …  and [the police] repeatedly used public speakers to urge people to dissemble.”

Around 8.30 A.M, people somehow managed to form groups; they displayed banners and chanted slogans. At about 10 A.M, demonstrators assembled in front of Hanoi Opera House, and from there, one representative read out loud the sovereignty proclamation to the Chinese embassy. It was reported that police attempted to disperse the rally and arrested the man who read the proclamation, but he was later released due to pressure from other protesters. People later marched through the city streets and around Hoan Kiem lake, before heading towards the Martyr monument. The protest ended around 11.30 A.M in the morning.

In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), mass demonstrations had not been carried out as planned. It was due to strict control by the security forces. One participant shared his experience saying that “about more than 100 people gather in front of Independence Palace, but no one could start [the protest],” whereas the security forces were mobilized at “nearly 80 percent [of their capacity] to suppress the rally.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Nguyen Quang A was unsure about how the movement would keep up with its momentum. He concluded in his interview with FRI by saying that “the protests began when the people reacted to the aggression of China over Vietnam’s seawaters and they would be less likely to keep endure the protests without further [hostile] actions from the Chinese government and military.”

July 10, 2011:

Several demonstrators and journalists covering the rally were detained on the sixth straight Sunday of anti-China protests in Vietnam, including a mother with her 5-year-old son. According to VOA, as soon as protesters gathered, Vietnam security forces started to swiftly and forcibly herd people onto buses to detain them and kept them from protesting.

Dinh Hau, a cameraman working for Associated Press, and several Japanese reporters working for NHK and Asahi Shimbun were among those detained.

They were later released after being questioned for about three hours. However, their cell phones and cameras were confiscated for further investigation.

The heavy clampdown on protests happened two weeks after Vietnamese and Chinese officials met in Beijing. The two countries issued a joint statement aiming to resolve the territorial disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiation. However, it was unclear whether the crackdown was part of the negotiation, and whether Vietnam was requested by China to “guide public opinions in the right direction.”

July 11, 2011:

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights organization, criticized Vietnamese authorities for suppressing and arresting peaceful protesters during the anti-China protests last Sunday.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia Division, told VOA Vietnamese that he was concerned about the “significant change” in the attitude of the Vietnamese authorities.

“Weeks ago, similar anti-China protests were allowed to take place. These protests were peaceful, [and] people only used their freedom of assembly to show viewpoints towards China’s invasive attitude. They had done nothing to destabilize the society,” he added. “Therefore, the detaining of protesters is wrong and a violation of human rights.”

On the same day, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement, urging Vietnamese authorities to “stop harassing journalists reporting on public demonstrations in Vietnam.”

CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, Shawn Crispin, said: “Journalists are not pawns to be used in Vietnam’s dealings with China,” adding that “Vietnam should allow free reporting of these protests. It should also release the four bloggers currently held in detention for posting materials critical of China or the government’s policies towards China.”

CPJ also found that “controlled local media had been allowed to report more freely on certain issues related [to] China, including the then-ongoing territorial disputes.” However, the committee was unsure if “Sunday’s clampdown on protesters and reporters signals an end to that brief, limited opening.”

July 17, 2011:

As protests reached their seventh consecutive week, the authorities also intensified their measures of oppressing and clamping down on the demonstrators.

Vietnamese police had arrested more than a dozen protesters near the Chinese embassy and hauled them onto buses. Riot police were also present to disperse another group of protesters.

Nguyen Xuan Dien, an academic and an ardent reporter of the movement, wrote on his blog: “This morning, [at] 8:45, when a group of protesters gathered at the Tran Phu Street side of Lenin Park, the security forces came in three buses and forcibly hauled people onto the vehicles.”

“There were even children and women among those forced onto buses,” said Dien.

A photo showing one protester being carried away by four police officers, each holding one of his limbs, sparked outrage online. Similar incidents of police violence were also reported.

A reporter in Hanoi told BBC Vietnamese that a 16-year-old boy was hit in the face, possibly by security forces, causing him to bleed. Meanwhile, another protester said that he was arrested near Hoan Kiem Lake and transported to the Hang Trong Police Station, where he and other protesters were confined in different cells and beaten by police officers before finally being released.

One video showing a plain-clothes policeman using his feet to kick a protester in the face was widely circulated on the internet. In the video, a man was seen being dragged onto the bus, where a policeman stomped on him. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, a military veteran who was also on that bus, confirmed the incident: “The young man was thrown onto the bus and where he lay down unconsciously. I was already on the bus then. He was able to get up after a while.”

The man was later identified as Nguyen Chi Duc. The policeman accused of using violence, Pham Hai Minh, is a senior lieutenant working at the Hoan Kiem district police division.

July 19t,2011:

A group of protesters filed a complaint letter to the director of Hanoi city police Nguyen Duc Nhanh, complaining about police brutality against protesters at the July 17 rally.

The letter condemned the Hanoi police for having arrested “at least 46 protesters” without any legal warrants, as well as demanded answers from the police director for the following questions:

  • From the footage of what happened on the bus, “was this brutal oppression an order from the Hanoi police chief?”
  • And if this was a spontaneous act by the security officers, what steps will the Hanoi police chief take regarding these officers?

The complaint letter also warned: “If the Hanoi police force continues to violently and groundlessly repress or arrest peaceful protesters protesting against China’s aggression in the East Sea in the near future, we will consider the responsibility of the Hanoi police chief.”

July 24, 2011:

Hundreds of protesters, including many of Vietnam’s prominent intellectuals and reformists, once again marched through the streets of Hanoi on the eighth Sunday of demonstrations against China’s aggression in the South China Sea. Young people also played a crucial role in the recent rallies.

The attendees displayed banners urging the newly-elected National Assembly to propose a reasonable resolution. At the same time, the protesters also called for honoring and commemorating the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam, as well as members of the Vietnam People’s Navy who lost their lives in the 1974 battles in the Paracels and the 1988 battles in the Spratlys. The activities of honoring and paying tribute to the soldiers who died during conflicts with China had previously been restricted or even banned in Vietnam since the Vietnamese authorities fear that this sensitive issue could provoke radical nationalism and lead to complicated consequences.

To protest against police brutality against protesters the previous week, the group also chanted slogans in front of the Hoan Kiem district police department.

As BBC Vietnamese reported, the Sunday rally did not meet with oppression from authorities this time, partially because the demonstrators kept a distance from the Chinese Embassy and were concentrated beside the lake area.

Several anti-China protests organized by overseas Vietnamese in the United Kingdom and Japan also took place on this day.

July 31, 2011:

After nearly two months of taking to the streets every weekend, demonstrators in Hanoi decided to take a temporary break. The participants said that they would halt all protests the last Sunday of July in an attempt to have an opportunity to “communicate with each other” and “relax,” as well as to “let the security forces have some rest.”

Around 100 demonstrators gathered at a coffee shop in Hanoi, exchanging opinions about what happened during the rally the previous Sunday (July 24th).

According to some independent bloggers, a similar meeting also took place in Saigon.

Some participants said that they had been harassed by the authorities following their participation in the protests. Nguyen Tien Nam, a regular rally attendee, said that he had received a warning letter from the authorities, in addition to being followed by security officers. Another protester, Le Dung, also received a summoning letter from the authorities for signing the complaint letter that was sent to the Hanoi police chief on July 19.

There were also calls for a new rally at Hoan Kiem Lake on the following Sunday (August 7th).

AUGUST

August 2, 2011:

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, the Hanoi chief of police, told Tuoi Tre Online (a state-owned online newspaper) that: “There is no policy of repression, suppression or arrest of protesters as reported by foreign media agencies.”

His address came amid rising condemnations of police using excessive force against the protesters, as well as barring people from participating in peaceful demonstrations.

“The [rally] participants are made up of intellectuals, artists, business people, and students. The demonstrations [aim to] express patriotism and opposition to China, [and] the majority of people joining the march obey the [local] laws, [as well as] traffic laws,” Nhanh admitted.

Explaining the reason why protesters were prevented from reaching the Chinese Embassy, the police chief stated that it was the duty of the police to keep the embassy safe and that this was in accordance with local laws and international common standards.

“The Hanoi police have not arrested anyone participating in the protests, nor have they detained them overnight,” he added. “The city police’s consistent policy is to propagate, demonstrate and mobilize protesters to disassemble by themselves.”

However, according to Reuters, Associated Press, and multiple independent news agencies, Hanoi security forces had detained dozens of protesters; and those arrested said that they been beaten in the police stations, in addition to being questioned by the officers.

Regarding the incident in which a policeman reportedly kicked a protester in the face, Colonel Dao Thanh Hai, deputy head of the Hanoi City Police Investigation Agency, said that Nguyen Chi Duc, a protester, “had confirmed to the police that no one had beaten him” and that the results of the physical examination also showed that “no injuries were detected on Duc’s body.”

“The investigation agency concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim that Nguyen Chi Duc was beaten and kicked by the security forces,” Colonel Hai affirmed.

Pham Hai Minh, the police officer involved, explained that people were mistaken about him stepping down the bus for kicking the man’s face.

August 7, 2011:

Another in a series of weekly anti-China rally demonstrations was mobilized in central Hanoi on this Sunday in August. The mobilization was seen as a test of the authorities’ tolerance of protests, as the police had recently intensified their violent crackdown.

An estimated 200-300 people had joined in the ninth Sunday march throughout the city’s main streets and around Hoan Kiem Lake. Protesters were seen carrying banners, flags, and an enlarged newspaper front page, which quoted the Hanoi police chief during a press conference on August 2, as saying that the police had “no policy of repression of protesters.”

Some independent observers reported that there was no harassment or repression from the police force at this time. According to Reuters, traffic police simply redirected cars and motorcycles, while undercover officers observed the protesters and recorded the procession.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (an activist commonly known by her nickname Mother Mushroom), who flew from Nha Trang to Hanoi to join the rally, shared her experience: “The protest group just walked around the lake, so the security forces did nothing. The security forces just gently reminded people to walk on the sidewalk. [...] There are many reformists, intellectuals, and even young people [joining the rally]. In the beginning, there were around 100 people, but the number grew up now.”

Demonstrators marched past major landmarks, including the Hoan Kiem Police Station, the statue of Ly Thai To, Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, before finally stopping at the Martyr’s Monument. They also tried not to antagonize the police by remaining far from the Chinese Embassy.

In an interview with VOA, Carl Thayer from the University of South Wales in Australia explained why the Vietnamese authorities allowed the anti-China protests: This is because the protests “serve the government’s purpose,” he said.

“As long as the protests are supportive of the regime, that’s fine, but once they become critical of the handling of the regime, then you are going to get a reaction,” Thayer said.

Thayer also said that the Vietnamese government is still deciding how to resolve the issue with China. “The lack of a clear policy on the protests suggests that the government is divided over the issue,” he explained.

August 14, 2011:

For the 10th time, a mass rally against China’s aggression in the disputed maritime territory in the South China Sea broke out in Hanoi. A few days earlier, China had held a large-scale military exercise in Guangxi Province, which borders northern Vietnam. The action further deteriorated the already tense relationship between the two countries. Meanwhile, Beijing claimed that it was only an “annual military exercise routine.”

Around 100 protesters were present at the time, but other independent sources reported that as many as 700 people showed up for the marches.

Meanwhile, protesters in Saigon found it difficult to assemble as “police forces surpassed [the protesters]” and deployed the tactics of “divide and rulle,” some bloggers explained.

The attendees’ message was largely similar to the previous demonstrations; however this time, they also tried to raise concerns about a broader range of political issues besides tenacious anti-China motives.

Owing to recent events, people were increasingly concerned about China’s influence on Vietnamese politics and society. Among those concerns were the bauxite mines in the Central Highlands, which was a cooperative project between the Vietnam Coal and Mineral Corp. (TKV) and Chinese companies, and the influx of illegal Chinese workers in several southern industrial provinces of Vietnam. The protesters also urged the newly-elected National Assembly to propose a resolution to the South China Sea issue.

August 18, 2011:

The Hanoi authorities officially requested people to halt all weekly demonstrations against China. Local news agencies published an announcement from the Hanoi People’s Committee, stating that “opposing forces within and outside the country have been calling, inciting, [and] guiding people to protest and march,” and that this action “undermines social order in the capital city,” as well as “impacting diplomatic activities of the ruling party and state.”

The Vietnamese government acknowledged that these demonstrations were motivated by patriotism and anger towards Chinese aggressive activities in the South China Sea. On the other hand, it also warned to exert “necessary measures” against those who refused to follow the request for the protests to end.

Local bloggers and demonstrators expressed their disagreement with the announcement, calling the order “unconstitutional” and “insulting Vietnamese people’s patriotism.” Vu Quoc Ngu, a regular participant in the protests, told RFA: “I think I will still continue [to protest] because us demonstrators have been peacefully protesting and this is not something wrong.” He also added, “the protesters now begin to actively gather without [any call] from social networks.”

August 21, 2011:

The protesters struck the 11th Sunday mass rally in Hanoi, in defiance of an earlier government order to halt all demonstrations. Last Friday, 25 Vietnamese prominent intellectuals sent a petition to the Hanoi People’s Committee denying that protesters were “connected to outside forces,” and calling the order “unconstitutional.”

However, as soon as the protests began undercover police were mobilized to round up and detain protesters. Scores of people taking part were arrested, reported Reuters.

Nguyen Quang Lap, a writer and a blogger, shared the following on his Facebook page: “The rally lasted for only 5 to 7 minutes this morning, [then the protesters] were immediately dragged into buses.” One local witness claimed that he saw at least 40 protesters detained.

In his talk to BBC Vietnamese, Nguyen Xuan Dien described the authorities’ interference as “rather brutal,” “lawless” and “inexcusable.” Furthermore, Dien claimed that he saw one bus leave the area with at least 19 people aboard.

At the same time, security remained tight in the center of Ho Chi Minh city. An earlier effort calling people to take to the streets seems to have failed. Since the beginning of the Summer Social Movement, only two demonstrations had taken place in this southern city.

Phil Robertson of HRW expressed his concerns: “We’re very concerned that protesters were arrested by the police and call for their immediate release.”

“Sadly, the overreaction of the authorities was shown by the fact that the police outnumbered the protesters, and their aggressive actions to prevent the assembly from going forward. These protesters have done nothing wrong, the police should release them unconditionally,” Robertson added.

It was reported that a day before, on August 20, police had sent several representatives to urge people not to join the rally. The authorities also used local newspapers to spread government propaganda, which encouraged people to “show patriotism with realistic actions;” in other words, “stop participating in all spontaneous gatherings, demonstrations and marches” to “maintain social stability and order.”

The third police crackdown in some way signaled an end after three months of demonstrations nearly every Sunday.

August 23, 2011:

The US Embassy in Vietnam expressed concern about the detention of protesters during an anti-China rally the previous Sunday, saying the action “breached Vietnam’s treaty obligations.”

“We are concerned by the detention of several individuals for what appears to be the peaceful expression of their views,” a US Embassy spokesman said in a statement. “No individual should be detained for exercising the right to peacefully assemble.”

“This contradicts Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Vietnamese government to release all individuals detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

In response, Vietnamese a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the US Embassy’s comment was “inappropriate.”

An Ninh Thu Do (Capital Security) newspaper, a mouthpiece of Hanoi police, confirmed that 47 protesters had been arrested during the last anti-China demonstration in Hanoi. Most of the detainees were later released, while only eight protesters remained in police custody.

August 25, 2011:

Around 6 p.m., the last three protesters held by the Hanoi police were finally released from Hoa Lo No. 1 Detention Center. The decision had been announced earlier by the authorities. Nevertheless, AFP quoted Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga as saying “these people will still be subject to further investigation.”

Most of those arrested on August 21 was released later on the same day or the next day. Only three protesters, Bui Thi Minh Hang, Dang Bich Phuong, and Nguyen Van Dung, were transferred to the detention center. They had been held there since the government’s clampdown on August 21.


The 2011 Awakening Summer Protest sparked a light of progress in social movements in Vietnam. Protests, along with other social demonstrations, had been rare in the single-party authoritarian nation and more than often met with a violent crackdown. Until now, the movement is still one of the largest mass demonstrations of its kind to be held in Vietnam, indicating the significant change of Vietnamese people’s perception of protests.

At the same time, the movement also raised concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea and the role of the Vietnamese authorities in safeguarding the national territorial integrity, while balancing Vietnam’s nationalism with its interests in maintaining a harmonious relationship with its ideological neighbor.

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