Cui Cac – Truong Hoa Minh
On April 18th and 19th, the People’s Army (Quân Đội Nhân Dân) online newspaper ran two articles entitled respectively “Seven die in non-terrorshooting incident in Quang Ninh” and “Border gate resumes normal operations after shootingincident”, in which it is reported that “Two Vietnamese border guards and five Chinese nationals were killed in a shooting incident at a border gate in the northern province of Quang Ninh on April 18”, “At noon, when procedures were being completed for handing them [illegal immigrants] over to Chinese authorities in line with regulations and international common practice, some of the Chinese men snatched a gun from an officer and started to fire, killing a Vietnamese border guard on the spot” and “A number of others, including four Vietnamese border guards, were also wounded.”
The first question should come to mind, how come such ordinary men could, though briefly, take control of the situation and killed one Vietnamese major and one second lieutenant while injuring four border guards, despite the fact that they were up against armed forces of Vietnamese military officers and police, who could easily outnumber them?
The articles continue, “The immigrants, including 10 men, four women and two children, were detained early on the day when they were trying to illegally penetrate deep into Vietnam through Bac Phong Sinh border gate in Hai Ha district.”
Here comes the second question: how well do border gates between China and Vietnam operate, since the vehicle that carried those Chinese immigrants could run through a checkpoint after it was ordered to stop for check-in procedures? Even worse, the vehicle was able to travel deep into the inland territory of Hai Ha district (22 km away from Bac Phong Sinh border gate). One wouldn’t want to imagine what could have transpired if the people on that vehicle had illegally entered into Vietnam for other purposes rather than simply immigrating.
According to Quang Ninh authorities and various newspapers, the shooting incident took place between 12pm and 3.15pm. As a customs officer at Bac Phong Sinh border gate recalls on Vietnam’s Agriculture (Nông Nghiệp Việt Nam) newspaper:
“Our police and SWAT team, together with China armed forces, have managed to corner and arrest them… Around 3.30 it was announced the incident had ended. When I walked outside, there were dead bodies and bloodstains all over the place, while Vietnamese and Chinese officers standing around with guns in their hands… My heart was still beating so fast.”
It leads to the next question. Wasn’t 3 hours too long a period for a coordinated team of armed men specifically trained for combat to regain control over a handful of ordinary people arming with just a rifle loaded with 5 bullets and no more? Additionally, the shooting took place on Vietnam’s territory; so it was unnecessary for China soldiers to cross border unless their Vietnamese counterparts had been inadequate to handle the situation.
It is therefore reasonable to question the solidity of current defense at our borders.
Before an answer is settled, let’s take a look at these photos.
A photo taken by Tien Phong (Tiền Phong) newspaper’s reporter Thanh Duy (Thành Duy) with a caption: “Vietnam border soldiers hand over perpetrators to Chinese authorities.” This photo, however, was later removed from all Vietnamese state-owned media.
(China soldiers in camouflage-pattern uniforms; Chinese characters visible on the filming officer’s helmet)
Vụ nổ súng ở Quảng Ninh
A China SWAT officer in short-sleeved shirt and camouflage-pattern amour (Chinese characters on his armour)
This photo testifies to the participation of China armed forces in the killing and capture of a group of “illegal immigrants” in Vietnam’s territory. Therein, Vietnam soldiers were picking up a dead Xinjiang man while a China counterpart was observing in a gun-holding position. Who had allowed China’s armed forces to enter Vietnam’s territory?
During handover, Chinese officers were armed with weapons as opposed to Vietnam soldiers, who were empty-handed.
These two Xinjiang men had evidently been alive when they were handcuffed. However, they were left bleeding to death by both Vietnam and China authorities.
On another note, the way the April 18th shooting incident concluded is very telling. It is without a doubt that through this case, China government is sending a clear warning to Xinjiang people who are drawing up plans for third-country asylum.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have come under fire for cooperating with their fraternal neighbor. Local rights groups and activists point out that the arrest and handover of runaway Uighurs on April 18th go against international norms in terms of protection of the rights of asylum seekers. Criticism also includes Bac Phong Sinh border gate officers’ unsympathetic attitude towards the arrested Uighurs, which more or less led to the fatal shooting, and subsequent maltreatment of these 16 asylum seekers, among whom there were 4 women and 2 children.