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Thu May 15, 2014
The Two-Way

Chinese Nationals Flee Vietnam As Unrest Intensifies

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 5:09 pm

A second day of violence in Vietnam has seen mobs singling out Chinese workers for attack, killing at least one and injuring dozens, as hundreds of Chinese nationals fled the country by land and air. A major foreign-owned steel operation was set ablaze in the country's north.

The unrest has been sparked by China's efforts to deploy an oil platform in disputed waters in the South China Sea, putting tensions on boil and spreading fear of a possible conflict between the neighboring countries that fought a brief border war in 1979.

In a statement, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said, "Appropriate measures should be taken immediately to help businesses stabilize quickly and return to normal production activities."

Violence earlier this week was centered in the industrial suburbs of the southern Ho Chi Minh City, the country's largest metropolis, but the latest unrest was mainly in northern Ha Tinh province.

The Associated Press reports that Taiwanese companies, many of which employ Chinese workers and managers, have borne the brunt of the violence. The New York Times says a mob "stormed through the [Taiwan-owned] Formosa Plastics Group's steel plant ... attacking Chinese citizens who were working there" before setting the plant on fire.

Quoting a statement from Formosa Plastics, Bloomberg News says Vietnamese staff at the mill in Vung Ang also "looted the site, leaving 90 Chinese injured, and one Chinese person died of heat stroke. Taiwanese workers were not involved."

Also, Bloomberg quotes the manager of Taiwan's DDK Group bicycle part factory as saying that a Chinese technician choked to death as one of the company's plants was torched. "A Chinese employee is hospitalized in stable condition after violence at DDK's factories 19 miles north of southern Ho Chi Minh City," the news agency reports.

The AP says the situation "is posing a challenge to the authoritarian government, which prides itself on maintaining peace and security. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said peaceful protests over the last few days were "legitimate," but that anyone involved in violence should be punished severely.

Meanwhile, the AP says Chinese expatriates "were fleeing by land and air. Cambodian immigration police said 600 Chinese crossed into Cambodia over the land border in southern Vietnam on Wednesday, and that others were arriving Thursday. Taiwan's China Airlines was adding two additional charter flights from southern Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency."

The Times notes that while the violence was initially sparked by the Sino-Vietnamese showdown over the Paracel Islands, "it has shown signs of broadening into a more general outpouring of frustration. News agencies quoted government officials as saying that the unrest had spread to 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces, and carried unconfirmed reports of additional deaths."

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