The government of Vietnam is considering the creation of “special zones” in Vietnam that would give huge concessions to China, including 99-year leases on the land. The Vietnamese people, for a variety of historical reasons, distrust China, and are opposed to giving Chinese companies this special treatment.
There was a call on social media sites for a large protest to take place today. This afternoon, a group of protesters marched up the street right in front of my apartment building.
The protest was earnest, but not violent. It seemed to me to be a peaceful demonstration of opposition to the government’s plan. The protesters didn’t seem angry, just resolute. I didn’t feel that there was any danger of it turning violent.
I stood in front of my apartment building and took photos and video. The people who walked by and saw me filming waved and smiled, and several gave me the thumbs-up gesture. As a foreign diplomat, it would not have been appropriate for me to have given them a big thumbs-up to encourage them to voice their opposition to an unpopular policy. I certainly should not have expressed my support to these people’s effort to communicate their displeasure to the government. It was not my place to wave and smile and give them my moral support.