| HO CHI MINH CITY, April 29
HO CHI MINH CITY, April 29 Groups of Chinese
youths, dressed in white Beijing 2008 Olympics T-shirts and
carrying national flags, gathered in Ho Chi Minh City on
Tuesday for the last international leg of the protest-dogged
Few expected disruptions in the city of eight million that
many still call Saigon, despite a call by overseas Vietnamese
groups opposed to Communist Party rule for demonstrations over
the competing claims by Vietnam and China for South China Sea
Uniformed and plainclothes police discouraged scores of
Chinese from unfurling banners near the cathedral in the city
centre, where streets were clogged with motorbikes and cars.
Security was tight along the route and outside China's
consulate, and at the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam's
Red flags, banners and signs welcoming the torch hung from
lampposts along several avenues of the city, which is also
preparing to mark the 33rd anniversary on Wednesday of the
communist takeover from U.S.-backed South Vietnam, and May Day.
Nearly four hours of events were planned starting at 6 p.m.
(1100 GMT) from the city centre, including a run by 60 torch
bearers along a 10-13 km (6-8 mile) route to a military
Vietnam is the last international leg of the relay before
it goes to Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The global relay has endured the most tortuous journey of
its history, beset by trouble since protesters breached
security at the torch-lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia in
Greece last month. Protesters have jostled the torchbearers in
several places and denounced Beijing's human rights record,
especially in Tibet.
In recent weeks Chinese citizens in several countries have
also organised nationalistic demonstrations, criticising the
West for accusing Beijing of human rights violations.
South Korea is investigating violence at the relay in Seoul
over the weekend.
Newspapers there ran angry editorials denouncing Chinese
students who hurled rocks at groups criticising Beijing,
charging into lines of police, beating pro-Tibet protesters and
kicking an elderly man [SEO123769].
In Vietnam, a U.S. citizen of Vietnamese origin was
detained and expelled last week after authorities accused him
of planning to disrupt the relay or protest outside the Chinese
consulate, scene of rare nationalistic demonstrations last
December over the Spratly islands and Paracel islands.
The government frequently makes public statements on its
claim to the islands, rocky outcrops that may be rich in oil
and gas. China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines
all make claims to the Spratlys.
(Editing by John Chalmers)
("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at