Dozens in Vietnam mark anniversary of border war with China

A man places incense while others pray in front of the statue of the 11th century founding father of Hanoi King Ly Thai To in central Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Several dozen people gathered to commemorate the brief but bloody border war with China 38 years ago. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)
A man places incense while others pray in front of the statue of the 11th century founding father of Hanoi King Ly Thai To in central Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Several dozen people gathered to commemorate the brief but bloody border war with China 38 years ago. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)
Dozens gather in front of the statue of the 11th century founding father of Hanoi King Ly Thai To in central Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Several dozen people gathered to commemorate the brief but bloody border war with China 38 years ago. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

HANOI, Vietnam — Several dozen people gathered Friday in Hanoi to commemorate Vietnam's brief but bloody border war with China nearly 40 years ago.

The participants laid flowers and lit incense at the statue of King Ly Thai To, the founder of capital Hanoi, amid a heavy police presence.

The authorities used loudspeakers to urge the crowd to disperse.

There are no official government activities marking the event, but it was extensively covered in the state media this week.

"I was moved because many people came here to lit incense to remember these heroic martyrs who sacrificed themselves defending Vietnamese borders," said Phung The Dung, one of the participants. He added he had mixed feelings because the authorities were also trying to limit the public commemoration.

The government tries to limit any non-official protests.

China sent hundreds of thousands of troops into northern Vietnam 38 years ago, for what it said was to teach Vietnam a lesson for invading the China-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

China withdrew its troops one month later with both sides claiming victory, but periodic fighting continued along the border for more than 10 years before the communist neighbors normalized relations in 1991.

The online newspaper Vnexpress reported Friday that for many reasons the border war was rarely mentioned for a long time, and that there were only 11 lines in a high school history textbook about the war.

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