HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police in Vietnam's capital have broken up a protest over what critics charge is the government's delayed response to massive fish deaths which they believe are linked to industrial pollution.
A protester, Le Hoang, said more than 30 people marched peacefully in downtown Hanoi for about 15 minutes on Sunday before most were taken to police stations in two buses. He said they were held for several hours and then released without charge.
Thousands of dead fish began washing ashore along more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) of shoreline in four central provinces in early April. Protesters and state media speculated that a steel complex owned by a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastic Corp. may have been linked to what was an unprecedented environmental disaster for the Southeast Asian country.
The fishing and tourism industries in the provinces have been badly affected by the incident.
Hoang said the protesters held banners and placards reading "No Formosa" and "Sea dead, fish dead and people dead." The protest Sunday was the latest in a series that are unusual under the tightly controlled Communist regime.
The head of the Prime Minister's Office, Mai Tien Dung, told state media last week that scientists from Vietnam and abroad have reached a conclusion about the cause of the fish deaths, but will not announce it until after consulting with independent experts from inside and outside the country.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said the government should provide people with basic answers to the fish deaths instead of cracking down on peaceful protesters.
"The Vietnamese government should be leading the investigation into what caused these fish kills, not suppressing people's efforts to demand answers and accountability," he said in a statement Sunday.