A Chinese ship confiscated the catch of a Vietnamese fishing boat anchored in the waters off the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Feb. 19, the state-sponsored Tuoi Tre Newspaper reported.
The incident is one of several recent cases of Chinese ships intimidating Vietnamese fishing boats around the islands, which are claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan, the paper said.
It happened when the Vietnamese crew was forced to anchor in a rocky area to avoid strong winds near the Paracel Islands, about 355 kilometers from the Vietnamese coast, according to Huynh Van Khoi, the owner and captain of the vessel.
A large Chinese ship approached the boat, and a group of Chinese in uniforms with steel rods and loud speakers boarded the vessel after coming in on small boats, Huynh said.
An interpreter told the crew they were being arrested and fined for entering Chinese waters. After Huynh and his crew argued, Huynh said the Chinese officials raised their rods at them in a threatening manner, leaving him no choice but to sign papers to avoid arrest.
The officials forced him to destroy his own fishing net with a knife before boarding their own boats, taking away half of the damaged net and 1.5 tons of his catch. The net cost around US$21,300, Huynh said.
Upon arriving back home, in Quang Nam province, Vietnam,, Huynh reported the incident to Vietnamese border guards.
The newspaper said the damage to equipment and the attempts to drive fishermen away were part of China’s plans to discourage fishermen from fishing in the area, which the paper said was historically Vietnamese fishing grounds.
China has occupied the islands after a bloody battle with the now-defunct Republic of Vietnam’s navy in 1974. Since then, China has turned the islands into military bases and always deterred Vietnamese fishermen from fishing. In 2020, a Vietnamese shipping boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel.
Huynh’s case, the paper said, was relatively mild compared to other instances, where entire cargoes were seized and fishermen arrested by Chinese officials.
At a high-level meeting between Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in October, the two sides agreed to control disagreements and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Nawar Nemeh and Malcolm Foster.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Vietnamese.