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Beijing is locked in dispute with a number of its neighbours over control of the South China Sea, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Recently China announced a unilateral fishing ban applied across parts of the South China Sea.
Chinese authorities claim this is for ecological reasons but Vietnam and the Philippines have rejected this explanation and are refusing to comply.
According to Tuoi Tre, a Vietnamese state-controlled newspaper, the incident took place in the Parcel Islands near Lincoln Island.
Lincoln Island is a small rock claimed by both China and Vietnam, but currently under Chinese control.
The fishing vessel’s captain Nguyen Loc claimed his boat was chassed then rammed by a Chinese ship numbered 4006, which forced 16 crew members to jump into the water.
Chinese crew then border the Vietnamese vessel and Mr Loc alleges he was beaten after refusing to sign a document handing over some of his possessions.
Before leaving the Chinese seized equipment worth around $21,000 (£16,700) and a tonne of caught fish.
Other Vietnamese vessels helped the stricken boat return to friendly shores.
Satellite images show Chinese Coast Guard ships have been operating in the area, but it is unknown whether any of these were involved.
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Around 25 miles from Lincoln Island is Woody Island which hosts the biggest Chinese military base in the area.
Beijing claims a large expanse of the South China Sea which overlaps with rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Chinese forces have been building military instillations on islands, both natural and artificial, in order to strength their control over the area.
On April 2 a Vietnamese boat sunk following an altercation with a Chinese coast guard ship.
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The Vietnamese government claimed China had “threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fisherman”.
However Beijing fired back arguing the Vietnamese vessel sank after driving into the coast guard ship.
On May 1 China announced a summer ban on fishing north of the 12th parallel.
According to Radio Free Asia bans in previous years have been largely unenforced, but this year the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has indicated it will be enforced.
China’s operation to enforce the ban, which also involves the Chinese coast guard, is called operation “flashing sword 2020”.
Western powers, including the US and UK, refuse to accept Beijing’s claim over the South China Sea and have been sending naval vessels to carry out ‘freedom of navigation’ journeys through the area.
Relations between China and America have sharply declined over the last few months over Hong Kong, Covid-19 and trade.
The US has threatened to withdraw Hong Kong’s special trading status if China goes ahead with planned new security laws which will massively reduce local autonomy.
Britain has accused Beijing of violating the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement which formed the basis for Hong Kong being handed over in 1997.
President Trump has suggested the Covid-19 outbreak could have originated in a Chinese laboratory, a claim that has been fiercely denied by Beijing.
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