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U.S. concerned about Vietnam detention of protesters

Plainclothes policemen push a protester (L, in red) into a police bus during an anti-China demonstration in Hanoi August 21, 2011. REUTERS/Tu Quang

HANOI (Reuters) - The U.S. embassy in Vietnam voiced concern on Tuesday about the detention of dozens of people who held an anti-China protest on Sunday, saying the action breached Vietnam’s treaty obligations.

Fifty people were rounded up in connection with the peaceful demonstration, the eleventh such protest in Hanoi since early June. The demonstrators are angry about what they see as infringements on Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea by China.

“We are concerned by the detention of several individuals for what appears to be the peaceful expression of their views. No individual should be detained for exercising the right to peacefully assemble,” an embassy spokesman said.

“This contradicts Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Vietnamese government to release all individuals detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Police quickly forced the demonstrators onto buses in rainy central Hanoi on Sunday morning after they ignored a government order to stop the rallies. The Hanoi government said the demonstrations were complicating Vietnam’s diplomatic efforts, and marring the city’s image.

The newspaper Hanoi Moi reported on Monday that 50 people had been detained in connection with the protests and that all but eight had been released.

Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia all have claims of sovereignty over portions of the South China Sea that have sparked naval clashes in the past.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Daniel Magnowski