Dozens of Vietnamese who gathered for an anti-China protest in central Hanoi were taken away by authorities on Sunday as they tried to rally support for an international tribunal’s ruling rejecting Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.

About two dozen people were bused away from around the landmark Hoan Kiem Lake in the capital even before they began their protest. There was heavy police presence around the lake with cars briefly banned from around it.

The rally was organised by No-U group in Hanoi, which opposes China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. It came after the Hague-based permanent court of arbitration last week issued the ruling in a case initiated by the Philippines, which together with Vietnam is one of the claimants in the disputed waters.

Vietnam’s communist authorities have clamped down on such protests before, fearing they could stir dissent.

China rejected the tribunal’s ruling and refused to take part in the arbitration.

The UN tribunal ruled that China violated international maritime law, specifically the Philippines’ maritime rights by building up artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and by disrupting fishing and oil exploration.

The Associated Press - July 17, 2016

South China Sea: Vietnam detains activists after international ruling

Scores of activists have been detained in Vietnam's capital as they gathered to protest against China who rejected last week's ruling dismissing its claims to much of the South China Sea.

Anti-Chinese sentiment runs deep in communist Vietnam, but the country's authoritarian rulers move swiftly to tamp down expressions of public anger, fearful that allowing such protests might embolden criticism of their rule.

Activists had used social media to call for protests in Hanoi on Sunday in the wake of this week's ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague which found there was no legal basis for Beijing's claims to vast swathes of the South China Sea.

The case was brought by the Philippines, but the ruling has been a boon for other regional countries like Vietnam who also have competing claims to the strategic sea.

Authorities in the capital Hanoi were ready for protests.

Plainclothes security forces were out in force, blanketing much of the city centre and keeping a close eye on any crowds that might be gathering, a reporter on the scene said.

Throughout the morning, around 30 activists were swiftly bundled onto waiting buses and cars by security forces after they gathered to hold a protest near the city's famous Hoan Kiem lake, a common spot for demonstrations.

Hague ruling infuriates China

Beijing lays claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with regional neighbours the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, which also have partial claims.

China boycotted the PCA hearings, saying the court had no jurisdiction, and has reacted furiously, vowing to ignore the ruling and arguing it misinterprets international law.

Vietnam and China frequently trade diplomatic barbs over the disputed Paracel island chain and waters in the South China Sea.

China has encouraged patriotic citizens to visit the contested Paracels, which are known as Xisha in Chinese.

Such acts have deepened already simmering anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam while domestic critics accuse Hanoi of being too meek towards its giant northern neighbour.

At least three Chinese nationals were killed in 2014 when rioting broke out in Vietnam after Beijing sent an oil rig into contested waters.

Agence France Presse - July 17, 2016