China’s steel vessel numbered 4006 and a motorboat chased and broke the side of a Vietnamese fishing boat in the Paracels on Friday; China’s officials also seized fishing equipment and catch, assaulted the fishermen on board – reported Nguyễn Lộc, one of the victims from Quảng Ngãi.

On Friday, June 12, at Sa Kỳ Border Control Station (Quảng Ngãi province, Viet Nam), the fishing boat QNg 96416, owned and controlled by Mr Nguyễn Lộc (42, from Lý Sơn district, Quảng Ngãi province), with Lộc and 15 other fishermen arrived from their fishing trip in the Paracels and reported that they had been attacked and had their catch and equipment taken by China’s vessels. 

Lộc told the authorities that around 10 am on Wednesday (June 10), while fishing at 16° 26’ N – 112° 39’ E, approximately 8 nautical miles to the south-southwest of Lincoln Island in the Paracels (claimed by Viet Nam, China and Taiwan but controlled by China), his boat was chased by the China’s steel vessel numbered 4006 and a motorboat.

Lộc tried to evade but could not escape the grip of the Chinese vessels. Rammed repeatedly by 4006, his boat was broken and capsized to its side. 

Lộc said “I steered the boat to escape, and the Chinese ship numbered 4006 pressed from behind and sunk us. My men quickly jumped to the water. I was still sitting in the cabin and the water was up to my chest. We shouted ‘Murderers! Murderers!”

Right after that, the China’s steel vessel slowed down, leaving the fishing boat half-floating, half-sinking. 

Among the fishermen, 13 managed to cling to three coracles (small, round boats made from bamboo), and three were rescued and returned to their fishing boat by the Chinese motorboat. The Chinese officials and the three fishermen then started the pump to save the boat. Seeing this, the other 13 turned the coracles back to the boat. 

The Chinese officials interrogated the fishermen, and took away their catch and many pieces of equipment.  

As the captain of the boat, Lộc was asked by the Chinese officials to sign a document. After claiming that he was illiterate and refusing to sign, Lộc was beaten and demanded to place a thumbprint in lieu of his signature. 

“When boarding the Chinese vessel, they demanded that I sign a piece of paper or they would beat me. When they struck, I noticed that the large ship (4006) had two big guns ready. I was kicked 30 or 40 times, and hit about 20 times”, said Lộc.

He continued “They told me to ask my companions (other Vietnamese fishing boats) to tow my boat home and that this is not their problem. I asked them to tow us to the shoal (a shallow area) to fix the boat but they refused. They then beat me up and left.”

According to the fishermen, the Chinese officials took away two navigation devices, a fish finder, a coracle, five rolls of breathing tubes (for diving), and 1 ton of catch. They also damaged many parts on the hull of boat QNg 96416. The total loss is estimated at 500 mil VND (around 21,500 USD).

The boat with its 16 fishermen had departed for a fishing trip on June 6. They were attacked on June 10, and had to return ashore to fix their boat. Upon arrival in mainland, they were isolated by the authorities in accordance with Viet Nam’s COVID-19 prevention protocol. 

On Friday evening, Mr Phùng Đình Toàn, Deputy Chair of Quảng Ngãi Fishing Society, said that “The Fishing Society has learned about the incident. Once we have more detailed information, we will send a report to the National Fishing Society to voice our protest against the action by the China’s vessel to Vietnamese fishermen who were fishing legally. We will also provide some financial supports for the victims.”

Satellite imagery shows a number of Chinese Coast Guard ships in its harbor, according to RFA. This is the second time in little more than two months that Vietnamese fishermen were attacked by Chinese vessels.