HANOI, 6 October 2009 (dpa) – Thich Quang Do, the dissident monk who heads the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), is calling for a Vietnamese boycott of Chinese goods, UBCV sources said Tuesday. The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau, which handles press for the UBCV, said 80-year-old Do had sent a letter calling for the boycott from the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, where he has been under intermittent house arrest for over two decades.
“Be it defending Vietnam’s territory or protecting its economic interests, the (Vietnamese) Communist Party and the government have put our fate into China’s hands,” Do’s letter said.
Do, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, has been an adversary of Vietnam’s Communist government since the UBCV refused to integrate into the government-affiliated Vietnam Buddhist Sangha in the late 1970s.
The UBCV became prominent in South Vietnam in the 1960s, but its membership has dwindled in recent decades under the government ban.
The call to boycott Chinese goods seemed to be an attempt to take advantage of a recent wave of anti-China sentiment among the Vietnamese intelligentsia.
But observers said it seemed unlikely to have much effect, as China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with Vietnam importing over 15 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese goods in 2008.
In April, Do’s call for a “Month of Civil Disobedience” to protest the security risks and environmental dangers of Chinese-run bauxite mines in Vietnam’s central highlands went largely unnoticed.
Do also noted the health risks posed by low-quality Chinese goods, a sensitive topic in Vietnam.
In June, the Chinese embassy issued a protest after Vietnamese economist Pham Chi Lan was quoted by the news website VietnamNet saying she was very concerned over the massive influx of cheap Chinese goods on the Vietnamese market.
Anti-Chinese sentiment has been on the rise in Vietnam since early this year, when scientists, National Assembly deputies and other prominent citizens began criticizing the Chinese-run bauxite mines.
Vietnamese have also protested Chinese claims over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Vietnam.