China demands Vietnamese apology for attack on tourist

Outrage after Chinese state media reports that a man was beaten up by border guards

BEIJING • China yesterday demanded that Vietnam apologise to a Chinese tourist who says he was beaten up by Vietnamese border guards after failing to pay a bribe, in an incident that provoked outrage among Chinese Internet users.

The call came a month after the neighbours pledged to safeguard peace in the disputed South China Sea.

Last week, a group of about eight uniformed men beat a Chinese man surnamed Xie in Vietnam's northern city of Mong Cai, on the border with China, after he failed to pay a "tip", the state-run China News Service reported on Saturday, citing Mr Xie.

The head of the consular affairs office of China's Foreign Ministry "had a special appointment" yesterday with the Vietnamese ambassador to "once more express our stern position", Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

"China demands that Vietnam apologise and pay compensation to the victim, severely handle those involved and take effective measures to ensure an incident does not happen again," he told a regular news briefing. Vietnam has already suspended eight people involved in the incident, he added.

State media pictures of a bruised Mr Xie in hospital were widely shared online, sparking angry comments targeting Vietnam and calling the incident a matter of national pride for China.

On Wednesday, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry told Reuters that it was "clarifying" information on the incident provided by China, and would "resolve the issue (according to) the nature of the event".

Mr Xie, his mother and his fiancee were returning from a trip to take location photos ahead of the wedding, the news agency said. The fiancee told China News the women had tried to stop the beating and record it, only to be restrained and have their phones confiscated.

State media pictures of a bruised Mr Xie in hospital were widely shared online, sparking angry comments targeting Vietnam and calling the incident a matter of national pride for China.

Chinese tourists made up nearly 30 per cent of all visitors to Vietnam last year, at just under 2.7 million. The border between Mong Cai and the city of Dongxing in China's southern Guangxi region is the main crossing point.

Although China and Vietnam regularly talk up their common interests as "traditional" friends and neighbours in public statements, conflicting claims of sovereignty in the oil-rich South China Sea have become a major source of tension in recent years.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'China demands Vietnamese apology for attack on tourist'. Print Edition | Subscribe