Vietnamese youths attend a talk given last week by a senior Party official of Da Nang about Vietnam's historical sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Spratly) Islands
Da Nang authorities will hold a ceremony next year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day China completed their military occupation of Vietnam's Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, a senior government official said.
Bui Van Tieng, an official of Da Nang Party Unit and chairman of Da Nang Historical Science Association, made the statement last week to 350 youth representatives of the central region during his discussion of the history of Vietnamese sovereignty over Hoang Sa.
He said China launched an illegal invasion to take the islands in the Hoang Sa Archipelago, which belonged to Vietnam, and had completed their occupation of the area by January 19, 1974.
They built an airport and a seaport and engaged in other activities, all of which Vietnam has officially protested, he said.
In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracel Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then US-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.
Vietnam's behemoth northern neighbor has illegally occupied the islands ever since. But a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its ownership of the Paracel Islands and continues to keep military bases and other facilities on the Spratly Islands.
In 2009, Vietnam appointed a Da Nang official as Hoang Sa mayor in a largely symbolic move to assert sovereignty over the archipelago.
"Da Nang plans to hold a commemorative ceremony on that day [January 14] next year as well as many other activities which affirm [Vietnam's] sovereignty rights over the Paracel Islands,"Tieng said.
Tieng said he is proud that many people register to become honorary residents of Hoang Sa; and that they express their willingness to contribute in any way they can to the cause of reclaiming historical Vietnamese territory, such as sponsoring Vietnamese soldiers from the nearby archipelago of Truong Sa (Spratly).
An entrepreneur from Da Nang offered to sponsor any studies on Hoang Sa that the Da Nang Historical Science Association might want to conduct.
Tieng said that while many have done their best to support Vietnamese offshore fishermen in the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands, much more help is needed.
"Vietnamese fishermen in Hoang Sa are those who cling to the nation's historical territory. Their ongoing presence reaffirms the nation's claim to it.
"I think fishermen who die or go missing in these waters should be considered martyrs," he said.