HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A concert by a Chinese artistic group on Friday night to mark the anniversary of Chinese and Vietnamese diplomatic relations has been postponed because of an unexpected electrical issue, a Vietnamese official said.
Many people on Facebook had urged the government to cancel the performance as it coincides with China's takeover of Vietnam's Paracel Islands 44 years ago.
Nguyen Thai Binh, a spokesman at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the performance by a group from China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region could not go ahead as scheduled because of an unexpected electrical issue at the landmark Opera House in central Hanoi.
The ministry and the Chinese Embassy organized the concert.
Binh declined to say whether the postponement was connected to the sensitive timing but said officials from both countries were working to reschedule it.
"We have informed the Chinese Embassy of the postponement and are working with them on another venue at another time," Binh said.
Referring to Culture Minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien, lawyer Tran Vu Hai wrote on his Facebook post: "While Vietnam and China established diplomatic relations on Jan. 18, 1950, why did Mr. Thien allow the commemoration of the anniversary on this painful day?"
"If you don't want to receive fury from the social media and people, you should immediately order the cancellation of the performance," he added.
Even though Vietnam and China are communist neighbors, the Vietnamese are wary of Chinese territorial ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.
China has occupied and built military installations on the Paracels following the naval battle on Jan. 19, 1974, in which more than 70 sailors from the South Vietnamese navy were killed.
Vietnam and China, along with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, also claim all or parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
China's military buildup on its artificial islands in the disputed waters has angered neighbors. The United States has expressed concern, saying although it is not a party to the disputes, it has responsibility to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight.