Relations between China and Vietnam have deteriorated still further - with claims and counter-claims of border violations.
GV PAN: refugee camp on Vietnamese side of border.
SV: refugees carrying out various activities inside camp. (6 shots)
SV AND CU: soldiers (2 shots)
GV: refugees working around village (3 shots)
SV: medical team checking refugees' health (4 shots)
GV: officials photographing camp.
GV: monitoring station of Chinese side of border PAN DOWN TO refugee camp.
GV: Vietnamese trenches (2 shots)
GV: hill TILT DOWN TO camp. (2 shots)
JOYCE: "The name of this border crossing - the Friendship Pass - is now something of a sick joke. The people trapped here at the pass, and the constant propaganda barrage, are obvious visual evidence that relations between China and Vietnam are now at an all time low. These refugees are Hua people, ethnic Chinese who've lived all their life in Vietnam. Now they're caught up in a desperate scramble to return to their homeland in China, a homeland they've never seen. Around 160,000 ethnic Chinese have fled into China in the last few months. This pass 170 kilometres north east of Hanoi was one of the main crossing points, but on July 12, the Chinese closed the border. There are now more than 3000 stranded here on the Vietnamese side.
On the road, scores of military transports and anti-aircraft artillery were heading for the border. These Vietnamese officials tell me that they believe that the frontier will be closed forever. But many of those people have friends and family on the other side who are separated by the sudden Chinese closure."
REPORTER: TONY JOYCE
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Relations between China and Vietnam have deteriorated still further - with claims and counter-claims of border violations. Vietnam has charged that 70 armed Chinese troops crossed the border recently to attack security units. And on Saturday (26 August), the Chinese claimed that more than 200 Vietnamese soldiers had crossed Friendship Pass, north of Hanoi, to occupy a ridge and had assaulted several Chinese people. Vietnam has counter-charged that the border invasion was by the Chinese who had joined local 'hooligans' in attacking Vietnamese officials. The border clash coincided with negotiations between both countries on the future of several thousand ethnic Chinese who wish to leave Vietnam but cannot enter China as the border was closed last month. Tony Joyce of the ABC has been to the area to investigate the refugees' plight.
Another 200 are stuck a few metros further up the road in no-man's land. The precise motivation of these refugees is confused, although it's clear there's a good deal of irrational panic behind the mass exodus. Certainly the ethnic Chinese especially traders in the south, have been badly hit by Hanoi's recent moves against private business and the surviving black market in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. At least 600 are sick, their makeshift shelters providing precious little protection from the blazing summer sun or tropical storm. basic medical care is now provided by the Vietnamese and the Red Cross. But with no piped water or sanitation, the danger of an epidemic is high. Since the border closure, some of the Hua people have returned to their former homes in Vietnam but these people - rightly or wrongly - believe that as ethnic Chinese, they have no future in the new Vietnam. In July, as the war of words became more heated, Peking cut off all aid - assistance which has totalled ten billion dollars in the last 20 years, The escalation in verbal abuse has been accompanied by a substantial military build-up on both sides of the tense 500 kilometre border.
A new Chinese radar-controlled fire base now towers above the path. Both sides have accused the other of provocations and physical violence, including shooting. On the Vietnamese side, we saw evidence of freshly dug bomb shelter tunnels in nearby rice fields.