A 67-year-old Vietnamese woman died after setting herself on fire in Ho Chi Minh City in an act of protest against the billion-dollar oil rig deployed by China in disputed waters of the South China Sea, the Associated Press said.
According to reports from the local Than Nien newspaper, the woman self-immolated in front of the Reunification Palace around 6 a.m. Friday.
The paper quoted Le Truong Hai Hieu, a top city official, as saying that police had recovered a plastic container thought to contain fuel, a lighter and seven handwritten banners saying among other things: “Demand unity to smash the Chinese invasion plot” and “Support Vietnamese coastguards and fishermen.”
News of the self-immolation spread quickly on the internet. Thanh Nien ran a clip purportedly showing the incident and motorcyclists looking on. The paper said the woman came to the palace by taxi and set herself on fire before guards there could react.
Last week, over 1,4000 people were arrested in the anti-China protests swarming the streets of Vietnam, triggered by China’s May 1 deployment of an oil rig in potentially oil- and gas-rich waters claimed by both nations.
More than 20 people were killed in riots outside of factories, at least two of them Chinese nationals. The latest report from Xinhua said that Vietnamese authorities had “miscalculated” during the protests, underestimating the possibility that the initially mild protests could turn violent.