Vietnam anti-China activists mark Spratly Islands battle

Updated 14 March 2016
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Vietnam anti-China activists mark Spratly Islands battle

HANOI: Activists chanted anti-China slogans in the Vietnamese capital on Monday to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing.
The two neighbors are locked in long-standing territorial disputes over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which both countries claim.
One party Vietnam clamps down on public protest.
But anti-Chinese demonstrations have become increasingly commonplace, particularly around the March 14 anniversary of a skirmish between China and Vietnam.
In 1988 China launched an attack on Gac Ma Island — one of the larger Spratly Islands which was formerly under Vietnamese military control — killing 64 Vietnamese soldiers in the last violent conflict between the two nations.
“We are here to commemorate our soldiers killed by Chinese,” teacher Pham Toan told AFP in front of a statue of Ly Thai To — the founder of Hanoi and a nationalist figurehead.
“Their sacrifice has been long forgotten by Vietnamese authorities,” Toan added, referring to activist claims that the communist authorities do not sufficiently commemorate the battle.
Vietnam’s communist leadership’s handling of its delicate relationship with China — which is the country’s largest trading partner — is a frequent flashpoint for domestic criticism of Vietnam’s authoritarian government.
Watched by dozens of plain-clothed security officers, the activists played patriotic music and waved Vietnamese flags near the central Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi.
Dozens of activists laid floral wreaths covered with black ribbons that read “the people will never forget” at the statue of Ly Thai To.
The protest lasted about an hour. Vietnam’s tightly controlled state media covered the anniversary but not Monday’s protest. There was no official comment from the government.
Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance in contested waters has triggered public anger and rounds of protests in authoritarian Vietnam where the demonstrations are sometimes forcefully broken up.
The Spratlys are claimed by Hanoi but controlled by Beijing, which has ramped up activity in the area by rapidly building artificial islands, including airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets.
Rioting broke out in Vietnam after Beijing sent an oil rig into contested waters in 2014, and at least three Chinese people were killed.
Apart from China and Vietnam the Spratly Islands are claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.


PM Modi files nomination papers in India’s general election

Updated 26 April 2019
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PM Modi files nomination papers in India’s general election

  • Voting in three of the seven phases of the staggered elections has finished
  • In total, some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament

VARANASI, India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed nomination papers Friday in a Hindu holy city, hoping to hold onto the seat for a second time in India’s general elections.
He prayed at a temple before arriving at the election office in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state, flanked by Amit Shah, president of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party, and several state chief ministers. As his car passed, people shouted slogans such as “Har Har, Modi!” or “Hail, Modi!“
Thousands of BJP activists, some carrying party flags and sporting saffron caps, waived at Modi who responded with a smile. People also showered rose petals on him. Many were perched on the road dividers and many more watched the show from windows and roofs of homes on both sides of the roads.
Voting in three of the seven phases of the staggered elections has finished. In total, some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament. Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.
With around 1.7 million voters, Varanasi will go the polls on May 19. The election is seen as a referendum on Modi and his party. The campaigning has been marred by accusations, insults and unprecedented use of social media to spread false information.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities for Hindus in India and is based at the banks of the Ganges River, or Ganga. Hindus believe Varanasi is the center of the world and anyone who dies in the city attains salvation.
Invoking Hindu symbolism, Modi told party workers before filing his nomination papers: “Mother Ganga will take care of me.”
“Last time when I contested nobody told me to come here, nobody sent me to Varanasi. Mother Ganga has invited me,” he said.
Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.
In his five years as prime minister, Modi has pushed to promote this secular nation of 1.3 billion people and nine major religions as a distinctly Hindu state. He has rallied his support base with Hindu mega projects across India, including in Varanasi, but has also been blamed for rising attacks by Hindu mobs against minorities, mainly Muslims who number about 170 million.
Modi and his party also have adopted aggressive nationalism, using the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record and playing up the threat of rival Pakistan. The approach was employed especially after a suicide bombing in Kashmir on Feb. 14 killed 40 soldiers, causing brief fighting with Pakistan and allowing Modi to portray himself as a strong, uncompromising leader on national security.