Five Chinese civilians and two Vietnamese border guards died on Friday in a gun battle between the guards and illegal migrants at a remote frontier crossing in northeast Vietnam which borders China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to Vietnamese media reports.
The clash began after the guards detained 16 Chinese citizens including 10 men, four women and two children and were to return them to the Chinese authorities. Some detainees seized an AK-47 assault rifle from the guards and began firing. Despite warnings from the Vietnamese side to surrender their weapons including knives taken by the women, the detainees continued to fight.
The website of the Thanh Nien Daily posted a photo of the scene, with the detained women wearing scarves over their faces, their features indicating they may have come from China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region from where some recent terrorist attacks in China have stemmed.
Authorities from Vietnam have denied terrorism was involved and the Chinese side is still investigating the incident.
It seems a more urgent task for both sides is to solve the complicated phenomenon of smuggling at border areas. As China and Vietnam share a 1,300-kilometer land border, it is difficult for the two neighboring countries to keep an eye on all the movement taking place in the sparsely guarded regions.
There have been constant reports of Chinese men from rural areas marrying Vietnamese women. Mutual trade is also intense in border areas. Mong Cai city of Quang Ninh Province in Vietnam, where the latest confrontation took place, is a vital trading port linking China with Vietnam and ASEAN. It cleared more than $2.76 billion worth of import and export goods in 2013.
Some Chinese observers have pointed out that not all these communications between the two sides are legal and they remain gray areas as too many people are involved.
China has advocated cracking down on cross-border illegal activities through international cooperation even though it is an arduous task that involves diplomacy, multilateral coordination and judicial assistance.
It is hoped the latest shooting will not stir up nationalistic sentiments within the two countries.
Meanwhile, legal people-to-people exchanges and the labor service market should be promoted to support those from labor-intensive areas to work overseas.