Vietnamese communities in Japan and Laos have demonstrated their sense of solidarity with compatriots at home in a protest against China, which illegally towed its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnam ’s waters in early May.

Around 200 Vietnamese and Japanese citizens in red shirts marched from Jygyo Park to the Chinese Consulate General in Fukuoka prefecture, waving banners and posters to demand China pull the rig out of Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone immediately.

They made representations in both English and Japanese to the Chinese Consulate General, saying that the rig’s operation runs counter to international law and practices, seriously violating Vietnam ’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

They asked China to stop its illegal acts by withdrawing the rig and escort ships unconditionally, and respect maritime freedom in the East Sea.

On June 17, the Vietnamese Association in the northern Lao province of Udomsay raised donations in support of coast guards and fishermen at home.

Phi Van Mai, Chairman of the association, said Vietnamese residents stand ready to do their part to safeguard Vietnam’s sovereignty.

Despite Vietnam’s protest since early May, China has expanded its scale of operation and moved the rig to 15 degrees 33 minutes 36 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 11 seconds east longitude, still 60 nautical miles deep inside Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

As of June 17, China maintained 136 ships, including five warships, around the rig. They kept on circling and standing ready to ram Vietnamese vessels, while approaching them to a distance of as close as 30 metres.

Worse still, Chinese fishing ships escorted by a coast guard vessel formed a line to block and disturb Vietnamese fishing boats which were catching fish as usual, at about 30 nautical miles from the rig.-VNA