Vietnam protesters clash with police over economic zones law

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnamese protesters clashed with police over a proposed law on special economic zones they fear will be dominated by Chinese investors, while the National Assembly on Monday to put the legislation on hold for several months.

State media reported that police in the south central province of Binh Thuan on Sunday night used tear gas and water cannons but failed to prevent protesters from entering a government building they later vandalized.

A provincial government official said authorities dispersed the crowd shortly after midnight.

The law would set regulations for the special economic zones of Van Don, Bac Van Phong and Phu Quoc. It was originally scheduled to be passed this week, but the government said over the weekend that the law which was designed to give a "boost to development and institutional experiments" to the regions would be delayed to allow more research.

The National Assembly voted Monday to delay the law passage until the next session in October.

One of the most controversial provisions of the draft law was to allow foreigners to lease land in the three special economic zones for up to 99 years. The government has since said they would revise the lease in line with the current land law, which allows land leases up to 70 years.

Online newspaper VnExpress quoted chairwoman of the assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as telling legislators that some people misunderstood the nature of the law and thus carried out extremist activities.

"It's not ruled out that the people's patriotism was abused in order to cause public disorder," she was quoted as saying. "The National Assembly calls on people to be calm and trust in the decisions of the party and state."

The newspaper quoted Binh Thuan provincial police as saying 102 people have been detained for questioning for their roles in the vandalism.

Demonstrations also took place Sunday throughout the country including in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City.

A local police officer in Tuy Phong District in Binh Thuan province said traffic on Highway 1 through the area was moving early Monday after it was blocked by the protesters for more than 10 hours.

Video clips of protesters pelting rocks and bricks at riot police in Binh Thuan province were posted on social media.

The Vietnamese have generally had long-running mistrust of China.

Vietnam is among the most outspoken critics of Chinese construction and militarization of artificial islands in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea's disputed waters.

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