At least three fishing boats from Ly Son Island were attacked this month by Chinese crews that have moved into their traditional fishing grounds around the Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands.
Nguyen Chi Thanh, 32, a fisherman and owner of one of the boats, said he and his men were attacked and robbed on January 7, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Tuesday.
Thanh said ten Chinese people swooped in piloting two speedboats, smashed his boat and made off with his most sophisticated equipment and a ton of fish.
Another boat, with 16 fishermen aboard, was attacked that same day by a Chinese coast guard ship.
The boat's captain, Le Tan, told the newspaper that men on board the Chinese vessel threatened his crew, smashed some of their fishing and communication equipment and stole the rest.
This second group of pirates also reportedly made off with their entire catch.
Tan estimates the assault will cost him around VND350 million (US$16,420).
He said the Chinese boat showed up in the evening of January 6. He decided to rush back to shore when he realized their intentions.
After a more than two hour pursuit, the Chinese boat dispatched a speed boat to board them.
Two fishermen from Quang Ngai Province on their boat, which was attacked by a Chinese coast guard ship on January 7, 2015. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Pham Thi Huong, vice chairwoman of Ly Son District in Quang Ngai Province, said Thanh's and Tan’s represent just two of three boats on the island that have fallen victim to Chinese attacks.
Huong did not provide details about the third incident.
She said local officials are clarifying the cases to file complaints through provincial agencies.
Huong said the district officials have asked local fishermen to remain alert while working in the area.
China has claimed Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos as its own.
Fishing boats and coast guard ships have bullied Vietnamese fisherman operating in the area for decades. The harassment has become particularly pronounced in recent years.
Vietnamese officials have repeatedly complained that the attacks represent a blatant human rights violation--to little effect.
Last August, Quang Ngai's provincial authorities reported that Chinese forces has harassed and attacked around 30 fishing crews in the province in the first 8 months of 2014.
The incidents began being reported in earnest soon after China illegally deployed a US$1-billion oil rig into Vietnamese waters on May 2. The rig was removed in mid-July.
Many poor households in Quang Ngai rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Roughly 5,460 wooden fishing boats operate in the province, according to official statistics.
Early last July, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung promised to make VND4.5 trillion ($211.5 million) available to help Vietnamese fishermen build better fishing boats to protect themselves from Chinese attacks and other threats.