[It sounds to me as if the Chinese navy merely ran the fishing boat down and sank it. The fishing boat was trying to avoid the Chinese ship. Jan]
A Vietnamese fishing boat with eight crew members on board was sunk after being hit by a Chinese ship near the disputed Paracel Islands, local authorities said on Friday, a move that may increase tension in the South China Sea.
“This is the first time a Chinese ship has hit and sunk boats in our commune this year,” said Nguyen Van Hai, a local official from the Quang Ngai province, a few hundred kilometres from the Paracel Islands.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea as its territory and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over reefs and outcrops in the area, which are also claimed in part by Vietnam.
South China Sea exclusive economic zones and continental shelf claims. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/SCMP
Hai said China’s ships hit and sank the fishing boat on Thursday morning before “capturing and detaining the crew” on a nearby island. However, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Friday said the Vietnamese fishing boat had refused to leave the area when ordered to by a Chinese Coast Guard ship. The Vietnamese vessel “suddenly turned sharply” and hit the Chinese ship, which had tried to avoid it, she said.
Vietnamese state media, quoting local sources, said two Vietnamese fishing boats had attempted to rescue the eight fishermen, but they were also detained with their ships.
China released the eight fishermen and the two Vietnamese rescue boats on Thursday evening.
Local authorities are waiting for them to dock back in Vietnam on Sunday to hear a full report on the case before sending their complaints to higher authorities, Hai said.
Hundreds of Vietnamese boats ‘intrude into Chinese waters’, think tank says
In recent years, Vietnam has accused Chinese vessels of attacking Vietnamese fishing boats, with a few incidents corroborated by dramatic videos posted online.
The Paracel Islands are claimed by Vietnam but were occupied by China in the aftermath of a 1974 invasion that killed dozens of Vietnamese.