Tensions Run High in Vietnam After Anti-Chinese Riots

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Taiwanese demonstrators protest in front of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural offices in Taipei on May 16, 2014.
Taiwanese demonstrators protest in front of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural offices in Taipei on May 16, 2014.

Taiwanese and Chinese expatriates hit out on Friday at Hanoi over its response to several days of deadly anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam which left two Chinese nationals dead and more than 100 injured.

The riots, sparked by a long-running and bitter maritime dispute between Beijing and Hanoi over a resource-rich island chain in the South China Sea, saw Chinese and Taiwanese-owned factories targeted in a violent looting and burning spree that appeared to have wound down by Thursday.

Vietnamese officials said one Chinese worker was killed and at least 149 people injured in the unrest while Chinese authorities confirmed two Chinese nationals died and nearly 100 were injured.

Taiwanese workers spoke of terrifying scenes as they hid from Vietnamese rioters who looted factories and attacked ethnic Chinese expatriates, burning several factories to the ground.

A Taiwanese businessman surnamed Qiu based in the southern Vietnamese province of Long An said mobs had targeted any property owned by ethnic Chinese, regardless of origin, beginning on Tuesday.

"They smashed through the gates and smashed up their offices, from morning until night," Qiu said. "It was mostly looting."

"Those who were able to get out, got out," he said.

He said the Vietnamese authorities had done little to curb the orgy of looting, burning, and violent attacks, however.

"On May 14, we had still had no work from the government, and it wasn't until the 15th that the police came out."

"The place looked like a war zone: only then did the police arrive."

Formosa steel mill

Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics has accused Vietnamese workers at its steel mill in the central province of Ha Tinh of provoking and attacking Chinese employees.

One Chinese worker was killed and at least 90 injured in the unrest, it said.

Qiu said hundreds of terrified Taiwan employees had taken refuge in the steel mill dormitories following clashes between more than 1,000 Vietnamese workers and a similar number from mainland China.

"There were more than 1,000 mainland Chinese hiding out on their dormitories as well; the two groups were separate," Qiu said.

A Formosa Plastics employee surnamed Zhang said the mainland Chinese workers had fended off the Vietnamese attackers with makeshift weapons.

"The Chinese workers fought the Vietnamese off with steel bars and chased them away," he said. "Then the Vietnamese found a few thousand more people, and they looted all the computers and documents in the office."

"They they started a fire, and two offices were burned down."

A second steel mill employee also accused the Vietnamese authorities of taking no action to quell the unrest.

"The Vietnamese government has adopted a laissez-faire attitude, allowing Vietnamese people to persecute the Chinese," the worker, also surnamed Zhang, said.

"The government has tacitly encouraged this, allowing thugs and criminal gangs to lead ordinary citizens to surround and attack Chinese people."

'Indulging law-breakers'

Beijing has also accused Hanoi of turning a blind eye to the riots and "indulging law-breakers," while a top Chinese general warned on Friday that Beijing would defend its "ancestral" territory, come what may.

"We do not make trouble. We do not create trouble. But we are not afraid of trouble," People's Liberation Army (PLA) chief of staff Fang Fenghui told a news conference in Washington after a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Martin Dempsey.

"Border territory which has passed down from our ancestors into the hands of our generation—we cannot afford to lose an inch,"  Fang said, calling on the United States to maintain an "objective" view of the conflict after Washington expressed concern.

Vietnam's unofficial representative in Taiwan on Friday apologized for the violence, adding that police have detained around 1,000 people in connection with the violence.

"A small number of law-breakers damaged and set fire to Taiwanese factories, causing panic.... I personally express my regrets and apologies," commercial envoy Bui Trong Van said, speaking in Mandarin.

"Riot police cracked down on (the protesters) and the riots were eased," said the envoy, who has no formal role in representing Vietnam, which recognizes Taiwan's diplomatic rival Beijing.

Task force

Meanwhile, an official who answered the phone at the Chinese embassy in Hanoi said it had dispatched a task force to assess the damage to Chinese businesses.

"We are still confirming [the number of dead and injured]," the official said. "We have sent a task force to the affected areas."

"The rioting happened across large number of provinces and cities, in the south and in the north," the official said.

"In the north, it was mostly in Ha Tinh and Thai Binh provinces."

A commercial attache said Chinese-owned factories had been warned to tighten security in the wake of the riots.

"Chinese-owned factories have already boosted security according to our requirements," he told RFA.

Fleeing the country

An expatriate Chinese worker surnamed Zhao said she had fled the country after rioters burned down a factory near her workplace near Hanoi.

"Our factory was in [an] industrial park around an hour's drive outside of Hanoi," Zhao said. "There was a factory next door to ours ... that burned for an entire night, burned away to nothing."

Speaking from her home back in China, she said she and many of her co-workers had fled Vietnam, returning home via Thailand, Hong Kong or Cambodia.

Taiwan investors have poured an estimated U.S.$27.3 billion into Vietnam since its communist government first opened the doors to foreign investment in 1988.

Beijing's deployment of the rig on May 1 near the Paracel Islands some 220 kilometers (140 miles) off of Vietnam's coast saw patrol vessels from the two countries converging in the disputed area, sending tensions spiraling.

The ships have skirmished repeatedly in recent days, causing collisions and the use of water cannon.

Beijing's decision to set up the rig is seen as one of its boldest moves yet in a bid to secure its claims in the South China Sea, which is known in Vietnam as the East Sea.

Dozens of anti-China rallies have been held in Vietnam since 2007 against perceived aggression by Beijing in the waters.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (5)


from N/A

Hello Buddy,

Vietnam need you to help and they are trying to say to the world that they love you with all their mind at this time. The same thing they has been said to China, Russia when they fought you in Vietnam War. You don't have smart bomb and drone at that times.

The Montagnard man clinging on the helicopter to spot where B52 need to drop the bomb on HCM trail.

Now, the Montagnard man has gone on their ancestral land because they love you with heart but not mind!!!!!!

May 17, 2014 07:46 PM

South Vietnam

from Canada

Would VN use the submarine that it has acquired from Russia to destroy the Chinese oil rig or any targets ?? This would be a perfect speculation , and would draw Russia into the conflict...

May 17, 2014 06:41 PM

Trịnh Chương

from Canada

Peace, stability, prosperity and normal relationship among ASEAN countries in particular and for the whole world in general will occur ONLY and WHEN there is no more communists.. It is too bad that both people of China and Vietnam could not raise up to remove the communist party instead of riot and aiming into wrong targets...However, this is a useful and effective dry run for later events..They need someones with master-mind and leadership perhaps within or from inside the communist party itself.

May 17, 2014 08:52 AM

Anonymous Reader

from Cambodia

That will be the super show hopefully start soon. Time to cry Vietnam not the same war V/N with USA. No more hiding place in Cambodia land. King Sihanous said you are crocodile. Go China

May 17, 2014 05:48 AM

Anonymous Reader

Vietnamese police did the right thing. It would be better to protect its citizen rather than to protect its enemy.

May 16, 2014 03:07 PM

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