Residents of a Vietnamese region bordering the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi have cut through a barbed wire fence recently erected by Chinese authorities along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border, RFA has learned.
According to a video posted on Chinese social media, police from Vietnam’s border defense department watched and recorded as locals removed sections of the border fence near the No. 57 border marker.
As the operation continued, a man on the Chinese side of the border yelled at them in Mandarin.
“I’m telling you again, stop doing this,” yells the man. “Your actions are not in accordance with the regulations.”
“You are not abiding by the regulations [agreed upon by] both of our countries,” he yells.
According to a scholar from Guangxi’s Dongxing city who only gave his surname Wu, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently built a fence along the border to prevent people from crossing without going through official checkpoints.
He claimed it was carrying an electrical current.
“The barbed wire they installed could electrocute animals and certainly people,” Wu told RFA on Friday. “China does not want its people to leave the country; there appears to be a lot of sneaking across the border.”
“People are desperate to leave given the recent deterioration of the situation,” he said.
“The fence with Vietnam is electrified, and they’ve buried landmines along the border with Myanmar,” he explained.
On September 14, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sn spoke by phone with Lu Xinshe, CCP secretary of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to the English-language Vietnam News.
Son expressed gratitude to Guangxi for donating 800,000 doses of SinoPharm vaccine, as well as medical equipment and supplies, to support Vietnam’s pandemic prevention and control efforts.
However, he also called for increased information sharing and coordination in border areas, as well as “accelerated construction of border gate infrastructure connectivity” and “upgrades” to border gates so that both sides could handle problems quickly, according to the paper, without providing specific details of the proposed upgrades.
China has a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border with Vietnam and a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) border with northern Myanmar, and it has been busy erecting barbed-wire fences with monitoring systems and spotlights along both borders.
According to a businessman familiar with the area who only gave his surname Zhang, Vietnamese opposition stems from the dangers the fence poses to both human and wild animal lives.
“They are concerned that anyone who comes into contact with the fence, including wild animals, will be electrocuted,” Zhang explained. “This has caused a lot of discontent in Vietnam, which is why they’re demolishing it.”
He claimed that the fences would disrupt the communal lives of ethnic groups that have members on both sides of the border.
“There are many ethnic groups living on both sides of the border in Vietnam and Guangxi, as well as in Yunnan and Myanmar,” Zhang explained. “As a result, half of their population could be in Vietnam and the other half in China.”
“They are used to walking across fields from one country to another for business or to visit friends and relatives,” he explained. “They’ve been doing it for a long time.”
“Now that [China] has built an electrified border fence, it has put a stop to these family visits,” he explained.
Many people in the border region, he says, cannot afford to pass through an official checkpoint every time they want to see their families.
“Chinese border residents have a blue ID book that gets stamped every time they enter or leave the country, and it costs money to apply for a new book when it gets full,” Zhang explained.
“It wouldn’t make a difference if it was just a card.”
He stated that the Chinese authorities are not eager to allow anyone to leave China via the southwestern border at this time, while arrivals are restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to RFA, China has stopped issuing new passports to its citizens and has imposed entry and exit controls on its population, citing the recent surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19, though commentators say Beijing is using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict freedom of movement.
Chinese nationals living on the Chinese mainland have told RFA that the authorities have gradually stopped issuing new passports and exit visas – a police-approved travel permit that adds another layer to the slew of hurdles Chinese nationals must clear in order to be allowed to leave.
The Chinese Entry and Exit Bureau recently confirmed publicly that the rules are in effect, stating that exit permits will be issued only for “essential” travel.
Some Chinese nationals living in the United States have also found themselves stranded in China after combining a trip home with plans to renew their soon-to-expire passports.