For the second time this year, a Chinese ship has rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat operating in the Paracel Islands, according to Vietnamese state media. The Friday incident appears to be a case of China enforcing a fishing ban that it unilaterally imposed on May 1.

The annual ban prohibits fishing activity in the South China Sea in the disputed region north of the 12th parallel. China claims the ban is for reasons of “conservation.” On May 20, Vietnam announced it would not comply with the ban. The Philippines have also denounced the ban.

The action by China may be an example of the Communist country’s intent to take a firmer stand on the ban that they call “Flashing Sword 2020.”

The first ramming incident occurred on April 2, with China making claims that the Vietnamese boat rammed the presumably larger Chinese Coast Guard vessel that resulted in a self-imposed sinking. Vietnam said at the time that China had “threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fishermen.”

Radio Free Asia quoted the Tuổi Trẻ , a major daily newspaper in Vietnam, on the latest incident that occurred near a rock in the Paracels known as Lincoln Island. It is occupied by China but claimed by both countries.

The Vietnamese boat’s captain, a 42-year-old identified as Nguyen Loc, reported the following to authorities in central Quang Ngai province:

  • A Chinese ship numbered 4006 chased and then rammed his boat, forcing all 16 of its crew to jump overboard.
  • The Chinese allowed some of the crew to return to pump water out of their listing boat.
  • The Chinese seized one ton of fish, a global positioning system, and other equipment worth about 500 million Vietnamese dong ($21,000).
  • Before they departed, the Chinese crew kicked and beat Caption Loc when he refused to sign a document for them.
  • The Vietnamese managed to return to shore with help from other Vietnamese fishermen.

In the past, China has done little to enforce the fishing ban aimed at stopping fishermen from operating in parts of the South China Sea that China claims jurisdiction over. Near Lincoln Island is China’s largest military base on Woody Island, also in the Paracels. It is one of China’s main administrative centers in the South China Sea.

China is facing growing criticism over its attempts to assert control over disputed areas. The territorial spats are usually over China’s all-encompassing Nine-Dash Line encroaching on the claims of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

An aerial view of Qilianyu islands in the Paracel chain, which China considers part of Hainan province, as seen in August 2018
An aerial view of Qilianyu islands in the Paracel chain, which China considers part of Hainan province, as seen in August 2018 AFP / -