Vietnamese protest economic zones in front of country’s representative office

About 100 Vietnamese migrant workers and spouses yesterday rallied at the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to protest a Vietnamese government plan to establish new special economic zones (SEZ) to attract investment from China.

The protest was organized by the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office and the Taiwan International Workers’ Association, which said in a joint statement that the Vietnamese government plans to pass a bill this month that would legalize the establishment of SEZs.

Vietnam plans to establish one zone each in Van Don district in the country’s Quang Ninh Province; Bac Van Phong district in Khanh Hoa Province; and Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang Province, the groups said.

The Vietnamese government is to offer many incentives for foreigners to invest in Vietnam, including allowing them to lease properties for 99 years, the organizers said, adding that they suspect this is done to cater to the Chinese government’s demands.

“The bill does not specifically favor investment from China, but it says that it targets the countries bordering Vietnam,” the organizers said in the statement.

“We are concerned that the move would allow more Chinese investors to cross the border and wield power all over Vietnam,” they said.

The rally was briefly disrupted by the police from the Taipei Police Department’s Zhongshan Precinct, which warned that the rally was illegal.

Foreign investors would be granted special privileges by the government and would be empowered to take matters into their own hands, said Father Peter Van Hung Nguyen (阮文雄), who founded the workers and brides office in Taoyuan.

The outside world would have no idea what is happening inside the SEZs, Nguyen added.

“The SEZs will not create advantages for Vietnam’s economy and its people. They will only make it easier for more Chinese people to migrate to Vietnam,” one protester said.

“Through massive settlement, China will invade Vietnam economically and seek to assimilate Vietnamese people with its culture and values, making Vietnam a province of China, like one Chinese advertisement suggested recently,” the protester said, adding that the Vietnamese government should hold a referendum on such issues.

Vietnam would increase its reliance on the Chinese capital through the establishment of the zones, making Vietnam a Chinese colony, a Vietnamese woman nicknamed A-hsueh said.

Vietnam has already experienced the consequences of an increase of trade with China, she said.

“China has exported contaminated food to the Vietnamese market and reduced the barriers for Chinese tourists traveling to Vietnam,” she said. “China has set up many industrial zones, which has led to a huge amount of pollution.”

In Vietnam, the government has arrested protesters against the bill on charges of sedition and rebellion, and plans to adopt an Internet Safety Act to further suppress the freedom of speech.

The Vietnamese government is obligated to protect the rights of its people after joining the International Covenant on Civil of Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Covenants Watch representative Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) said.

Not allowing the public to participate in reviews of the legislation and forcing people to relocate for the establishment of SEZs has caused the Vietnamese government to contravene these international agreements, he said.

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Advisory Committee: Yves Berthelot (France),  PV Rajagopal (India), Vandana Shiva (India), Oliver de Schutter (Belgium), Mazide N’Diaye (Senegal), Gabriela Monteiro (Brazil), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Anne Pearson (Canada), Liz Theoharis (USA), Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand), Jagat Basnet (Nepal), Miloon Kothari (India),  Irene Santiago (Philippines), Arsen Kharatyan (Armenia), Margrit Hugentobler (Switzerland), Jill Carr-Harris (Canada/India), Reva Joshee (Canada), Sonia Deotto (Mexico/Italy),Benjamin Joyeux (Geneva/France), Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma, Ran Singh (India)