Activists in Vietnam are closely watching the crowds filling the streets of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong dissenters are demonstrating anger with the mainland Chinese government about elections in 2017. They also demand democratic reforms and the resignation of the territory’s chief official.
In nearby Vietnam, feeling against China also is strong. That is especially true because of Vietnamese and Chinese competing claims of territorial rights in the South China Sea. But police usually quickly end protests in Vietnam.
Many Vietnamese now are using the Internet to support the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Many Vietnamese are changing their Facebook profile pictures to the symbol of a dove (a white bird that represents peace) tied with a yellow ribbon.
Vietnamese activist Anh Chi’s avatar shows a photo of himself holding a card that says “Support Hong Kong civil disobedience movement” in English.
He said the Vietnamese people have learned many lessons from the activists in Hong Kong. For example, he said the Vietnamese have learned to gather in a central place. He said they have learned to exchange opinions. And he said they also have learned to support protesters with food and drink and other needs over many days.
The protesters in Hong Kong want to make sure the government in Beijing does not choose candidates for election. Many Vietnamese activists support that goal.
Major demonstrations in Vietnam are usually protests against China. Police usually break them up because they fear that they could become protests against the Vietnamese government.
Protests in Vietnam usually are not planned and happen suddenly. They usually are not like the very organized demonstrations in Hong Kong.
But activist Anh Chi says there are similarities.
He said China called the protests in Hong Kong illegal. The Vietnamese government also called the demonstrations in Hanoi or Saigon illegal. But he said the protests were in line with the constitution.
Anh Chi also says he believes the Vietnamese government worries about the Hong Kong protests. He says police would stop any attempt in Vietnam to show support. But so far, the Vietnamese state-operated media do not appear to be restricted from reporting the Hong Kong protests.
Jonathan London of City University Hong Kong is an expert observer of Vietnam. He visited the Hong Kong protests Wednesday. Mr. London says he thinks many Vietnamese are what he called “absolutely gripped” by the Hong Kong movement to oppose the mainland Chinese government.
The Vietnamese have what Mr. London calls a “front-row seat” to events in Hong Kong through news reporting and the Internet. The events are taking place at a time when Vietnam is involved in a great political debate.
“...Political discourse in Vietnam today is such that the explosion of a large-scale social movement in Hong Kong can be discussed openly and widely, and I think that is, you know, something that is remarkable in the recent history of Vietnam.”
But until there is a resolution between the protesters and the government of Hong Kong, it is not clear how the events will affect Vietnam’s activists. But they are sure to keep a close watch on the developments.
I’m Mario Ritter.
This report was based on a story from reporter Marianne Brown in Hanoi. Ashley Thompson wrote it for Learning English. Jerilyn Watson was the editor.
Words in this Story
territorial - adj. relating to the ownership of an area of land or sea
symbol - n. a thing that represents or stands for something else.
ribbon – n. a long piece of material used for tying something or for decoration
avatar - n. an icon or figure representing a person on the Internet or in computer games
resolution - n. the action of solving a problem or a dispute
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