Fishermen, lawyers demand removal of illegal oil rig
|The Chinese Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig that has been illegally moved to Vietnamese waters. The brazen violation of Viet Nam's sovereignty threatens the livelihoods of local fishermen, who are demanding its removal.-VNS File Photo Xinhua
QUANG NGAI (VNS) — Fishermen from Ly Son Island off Viet Nam's central coast are still casting their nets around the Hoang Sa archipelago, their traditional fishing ground, despite the presence of an illegal Chinese oil rig in the area.
China set up the rig with the aid of a large number of vessels, including warships, last weekend. Viet Nam has said the move seriously violates Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago and its jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The act is also said to violate Viet Nam's sovereignty over territorial waters and threatens local fishermen's operations.
"It is unacceptable," said 39-year-old fisherman Nguyen Hong from An Hai commune's Fisheries Trade Union in Ly Son island district, central Quang Ngai province.
Another fisherman, Le Binh, said fishermen would still operate in its traditional Hoang Sa and Truong Sa fishing grounds to contribute to the nation's economic development and protect its sovereignty.
Meanwhile at Nghia Phu Fishing Port in Quang Ngai city, fisherman Tran Tho said he had spent 30 years fishing around the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spartly) archipelagoes.
He said his boat criss-crossed the area where China had positioned the oil rig on his way to the Hoang Sa sea area.
The Chinese oil rig has forced fishermen to take a longer route to their fishing grounds, he said, maintaining that he and his colleagues would not be intimidated.
On the morning of May 9, thousands of people in Ly Son Island and surrounding areas strongly protested China's illegal act in the East Sea.
"Viet Nam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa is undeniable. We demand China respect this and withdraw all equipment and vessels from Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone," Nguyen Quoc Chinh, head of the An Hai communal Fisheries Trade Union, told the crowd.
Ly Son Island is home of the Hoang Sa flotilla, set up by Nguyen Lords to go to Hoang Sa to measure the tides and establish the nation's sea boundary.
The Viet Nam Lawyers' Association (VLA) yesterday called on legal practitioners around the world to raise their voices to protect justice and international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In a declaration on China 's illegal placement of the oil rig in Viet Nam's waters, released during a press conference in Ha Noi , the association strongly condemned the Chinese side and requested it immediately remove the drilling rig and all escort vessels from Vietnamese waters.
The VLA also demanded that China avoid similar acts within Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The declaration reiterated that on May 2, China positioned its rig at 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude, south of Tri Ton Island . It noted that this was 80 nautical miles within Viet Nam's continental shelf.
The rig is escorted by a large number of vessels, including military ones. They have been accused of deliberately ramming vessels from Viet Nam Coast Guard and the Fisheries Surveillance Force, causing property damage and threatening the lives of the crew members.
The association said the Chinese rig and vessels were operating totally within an area of Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
It added that China's move defied international law and obviously violated Viet Nam's sovereignty as well as the 1982 UNCLOS (Articles 58 and 77) of which China itself is a member.
The association said this also went against the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea agreed between China and ASEAN member countries, making the situation more complicated and causing instability in the East Sea.
And it said China had no reasons to compare its illegal act with Viet Nam's legal exploration for oil in its waters.
The association asked the Chinese side to strictly abide by international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, which clearly stated that no nation can explore the continental shelf of a coastal nation or exploit its natural resources without the express consent of the state. At the same time, the association said China should strictly implement commitments contained in the DOC.
Meanwhile. the Viet Nam Petroleum Association (VPA) said the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)'s operations in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone were against the practice of international oil and gas activities and hurt mutual trust and the motto of co-operation and friendship between Viet Nam and China.
In a statement released yesterday, the VPA protested against CNOOC's illegal acts in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone, underscoring that the move went against the co-operative spirit between the firm and the Viet Nam Oil and Gas Group.
The Chinese operation in the location, which belongs to oil and gas Lot 143 within Viet Nam's 200-nautical-mile-exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, was illegal and contrary to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the association said.
It added that the move seriously violated the sovereign right and jurisdiction as well as the national interests of Viet Nam and intensified tensions in the East Sea.
The VPA demanded CNOOC stop its actions at once and remove the drilling rig from Viet Nam's waters. It also asked China to strictly abide by the agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues, and respect internal law, the 1982 UNCLOS and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.
It said it was always willing to boost traditional relations with China based on respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and international law.
Referring to China's illegal placement of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters, Viet Nam Marine Police Commander rear admiral Nguyen Quang Dam said yesterday that China had so far deployed 79 vessels to protect the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig area, including three military ships.
It had also deployed several dozen aircraft to operate in the area, Dam said.
It can be seen that China has planned its move elaborately, always ensuring that more than 70 ships are operating in this area, according to Dam.
The Chinese vessels had been very aggressive and had proactively hit Vietnamese ships and boats, causing serious damage, particularly to Vietnamese fishermen and the nation's maritime police, he added.
In particular, Chinese vessels had fired water cannons on Vietnamese ships, damaging the ships and injuring sailors, Dam said.
He said the maritime police are determined to protect the country's waters.
China attacks another Vietnamese fishing boat
A fishing boat from the central province of Quang Ngai had its sides and cabin damaged after it was illegally chased and attacked by Chinese ships on May 7.
The Vietnamese ship was in its regular fishing grounds off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.
Le Khuan, Vice Chairman of the fishing union of An Vinh Commune in Quang Ngai province's Ly Son district, said that the boat (QNg 96416-TS), with 16 fishermen on board managed to return to Ly Son Island yesterday morning.
The boat's captain and owner, Nguyen Van Loc of Tay Hamlet, An Vinh Commune, said the incident happened when his boat was fishing in an area about 15 nautical miles south of Linh Con Island, an island in Da Nang's Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago) and some 70 nautical miles east of the site where China has illegally positioned an oil rig inside Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone.
Loc said a Chinese warship suddenly appeared, fired warning flares and ordered Loc's boat to stop. The fisherman said his boat had to snake its way to avoid the ship, but the Chinese vessel got closer and soldiers on board threw many heavy objects including hammers and big bolts at the fishing boat, breaking its cabin glasses.
After nearly four hours of chasing his boat, the Chinese warship called in another vessel – this one belonging to the Chinese fisheries administration force – for help. This ship rammed into the Vietnamese fishing boat, damaging its right flanks and the wall of the cabin, and left. The Chinese warship remained at the site. Water began to flow into Loc's boat, but the crew members managed to repair some parts and get the boat back to the island.
Vice Chairwoman of the Ly Son district People's Committee, Pham Thi Huong, said later that the Ly Son border station has estimated the damage to the fishing boat at around VND300 million ($14,280).
This is the latest in a spate of incidents in which fishing boats from Ly Son Island have been chased and harassed by Chinese ships in Hoang Sa waters. In some of the encounters, Vietnamese fishermen have been taken captive illegally and their catch and properties seized.— VNS