World Bulletin / News Desk
Up to 21 people were killed in Vietnam, a doctor said on Thursday, and a huge foreign steel project was set ablaze as anti-China riots spread to the centre of the country a day after arson and looting in the south.
The doctor at a hospital in central Ha Tinh province said five Vietnamese workers and 16 other people described as Chinese were killed on Wednesday night in rioting, one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations since the neighbours fought a brief border war in 1979.
China's state news agency Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese nationals had died and more than 100 were hospitalised.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on police and state and local authorities to restore order and ensure the safety of people and property in the affected areas.
"Appropriate measures should be taken immediately to help businesses stabilise quickly and return to normal production activities," he said in a statement, without elaborating.
Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan's biggest investor in Vietnam, said its upcoming steel plant in Ha Tinh was set on fire after fighting between its Vietnamese and Chinese workers. One Chinese worker was killed and 90 others injured, it said in a statement in Taipei.
It was not immediately clear if the casualties were among those admitted to the Ha Tinh hospital.
The plant is expected to be Southeast Asia's largest steel making facility when it is completed in 2017. No details of fire damage or financial losses were immediately available, the company said.
The Ha Tinh industrial park, estimated to cost more than $20 billion, is more than half complete. When finished in 2020, it will have a port, a 2,100-MW power plant and six furnaces, Vietnamese media say.
MAINSTAY OF ECONOMY
Such industrial zones are the backbone of Vietnam's $138 billion economy. The country has 190 registered industrial parks employing about 2.1 million people. They manufactured products worth $38 billion in exports last year, or 30 percent of Vietnam's total export revenue.
The brunt of the violence has been borne by Taiwanese firms, mistaken by the rioters as being owned by mainland Chinese.
China expressed serious concern over the violence in Vietnam and urged it to punish criminals and compensate victims. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying suggested Hanoi had turned a blind eye to the protesters.
"The looting and stealing that has taken place at Chinese businesses and to Chinese people has a direct relationship with Vietnam's winking at and indulging law breakers there."
Although the two Communist neighbours have close economic and political ties, Vietnamese resentment against China runs deep, rooted in feelings of national pride and the struggle for independence after decades of war and more than 1,000 years of Chinese colonial rule that ended in the 10th century.
The dispute in the South China Sea has sparked anger on both sides. Dozens of vessels from the two countries are around the oil rig, and both sides have accused the other of intentional collisions, increasing the risk of a confrontation.
Vietnamese are also angered by what they call exploitation of its raw materials and resources by Chinese firms, and say although bilateral trade is over $50 billion annually, Chinese investment in Vietnam is only around $2.3 billion.
China faces similar accusation in other emerging markets, especially in Africa. Some 85 percent of China's exports from Africa are raw materials, such as oil and minerals, and Beijing has been accused of holding back the continent's economic development by ignoring the creation of local jobs and markets.
Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to foreign factories and rampaged through industrial zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces near Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, officials said. Protests continued on Wednesday.
Hundreds of Chinese working in the zones have fled, most to neighbouring Cambodia and others by air.
"We're scared, of course. With all the factories burning, anyone would be scared in this situation."
In Binh Duong province alone, police said 460 companies had reported some damage to their plants, local media reported.
"More than 40 policemen were injured while on duty, mainly by bricks and stones thrown by extremists," the state-run Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said.
The United States has called on both sides for restraint.
The U.S. State Department said it was monitoring events in Vietnam closely, and urged restraint from all parties, while adding: "We support the right of individuals to assemble peacefully to protest."Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Mayıs 2014, 16:38