Ballroom Dancers 1, Anti-PRC Vietnamese Protesters 0

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/17/2014 11:31:00 AM
We can dance if we want to / We can leave protesters behind...
This has to be my favorite Southeast Asian country versus China story of the year so far: Vietnam deploys dancers to foil [anti-PRC] protests says the headline. You see, the Vietnamese have a monument dedicated to Ly Thai To--the king who moved the capital to Hanoi--in the center of the capital. Protesters have usually made a beeline for the statue to commemorate conflicts of national importance. China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979 was provoked by Vietnamese forces in turn invading Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge that was said to be destabilizing Vietnam.

Expecting the protesters to come to Ly Thai To's statue to mark the 35th anniversary of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict, it appears Vietnam's leadership were a step ahead this year. When the protesters came, their speeches were drowned out by L-O-U-D aerobics classes [!] and the space they usually occupy was already taken up by ballroom dancing couples [!!]:
Anti-China protesters hoping to lay wreaths at a famous statue in the Vietnamese capital on Sunday were obstructed by an unusual sight of ballroom dancers and an energetic aerobics class held to a thumping sound system.
The demonstrators suspect the government deployed the dancers as a way to stop them from getting close to the statue and make their speeches inaudible. The few who tried to get close to the statue of Ly Thai To, the founder of Hanoi and a nationalist icon, were shooed away.
The protesters were marking the 35th anniversary of a bloody border war between China and Vietnam, where anger over Beijing's increasingly assertive territorial claims on islands in the South China Sea that Hanoi insists belong to it is already running high.
Outsmarted! Given the tense nature of Sino-Vietnamese relations over islands in the South China Sea, why doesn't Vietnam like using China as a whipping boy to relieve pressure?
  1. The Vietnamese still claim ostensible solidarity with their fellow communists in China, hence their reservations in airing differences in public.
  2. As the article correctly explains, while displeasure may be aimed at China, there is wariness that popular discontent can be redirected towards the Vietnamese leadership.
Apparently, these tactics are not new, either:
Nguyen Quang A, a well-known dissident, and others attending the rally in Hanoi on Sunday said the government deployed the dancers at the statue of Ly Thai To, and at another statue nearby, to prevent them gathering there. The tactic appeared to be part of a low-key approach to policing the event to avoid confrontation. There were scores of plainclothes security officers at the rally, but very few wearing uniform. Quang said he asked the dancers to stop for a few minutes but that they refused.
Whoever said apparatchiks can't be nimble on their feet?