China-Vietnam relations

Vietnamese gather to mark anniversary of brief but bloody border war with China almost 40 years ago

China sent hundreds of thousands of troops into northern Vietnam 38 years ago, for what it said was to teach Vietnam a lesson for invading the China-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 2:01pm

Several dozen people gathered on Friday in Hanoi to commemorate Vietnam’s brief but bloody border war with China nearly 40 years ago.

The participants laid flowers and lit incense at the stature of King Ly Thai To, the founder of capital Hanoi in the 10th century amid a heavy police presence.

The authorities used loudspeakers to urge the crowd to disperse. There are no official government activities marking the event, but it was extensively covered in the state media this week.

“I was moved because many people came here to lit incense to remember these heroic martyrs who sacrificed themselves defending Vietnamese borders,” said Phung The Dung, one of the participants. He added he had mixed feelings because the authorities were also trying to limit the public commemoration.

The government tries to limit any non-official protests.

China sent hundreds of thousands of troops into northern Vietnam 38 years ago, for what it said was to teach Vietnam a lesson for invading the China-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

China withdrew its troops one month later with both sides claiming victory, but periodic fighting continued along the border for more than 10 years before the communist neighbours normalised relations in 1991.

The online newspaper Vnexpress reported on Friday that for many reasons the border war was rarely mentioned for a long time, and that there were only 11 lines in a high school history textbook about the war.