10/11/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM – CHINA
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The tragedy of Vietnamese fishermen forced into poverty from Chinese arrests and seizures

by Nguyen Hung
In Quang Ngai Province alone, more than one hundred families have been forced into poverty because their boats were seized or had to take out loans to pay to free their men, jailed by the Chinese. Now they want Vietnamese authorities to intervene.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The tragedy of Vietnamese fishing trawlers and their crews continues as they are seized by the Chinese, in Vietnamese territorial waters as well. In custody, they are often beaten. More than one hundred families in Quang Ngai Province have had to sell their homes or borrow money to pay fines imposed by the Chinese on their husbands or sons.

“We are really scared to go to sea, because Chinese boats often ram into our boats, or arrest us and cruelly beat us,” some fishermen originally from Quang Ngai told AsiaNews. “They force us to stand all day with our hands on our head or kick us or use electric rods against us,” some said.

Many families in this province have become poor to pay debts. This is Vinh’s case. In 2009, his trawler was seized by the Chinese as he fished near the Vietnamese islands of Phu Lam. The Chinese demanded more than a billion dong (US$ 50,000). He spent almost two months in China. When he was released and went home, he was penniless and could not find another job. He had to take out a loan with high interest in order to get back to sea. This year, when he went back to fish, Chinese boats surrounded him again and seized his boat. As the Vietnamese say, he is truly “trắng tay”, dirt poor.

Recently, Vietnam state media have focused on the fate of Vietnamese fishermen detained by the Chinese, noting how many fishermen have been arrested and their families forced to move to the cities to survive. They have become migrants, homeless and live in harsh conditions.

Some fishermen from Ho Chi Minh City have told AsiaNews that they have asked their government to do something, to help “fishermen be free to work in the sea, without concerns for the ‘strange ships’,” namely the Chinese boats.

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