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At least 21 dead in Vietnam anti-China protests

over oil rig

Riots spread from south the central part of Vietnam as crowds set fire to industrial parks,
sparked by rig in disputed territory

Vietnamese protesters outside the construction site of a Formosa steel mill in Ha Tinh province. Protests led to at least 21 killed and
nearly 100 injured. Photograph: Reuters

Kate Hodal in Bangkok and Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing

Thursday 15 May 2014 15.05 EDT

At least 21 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in Vietnam on Thursday during violent
protests against China in one of the deadliest confrontations between the two neighbours
since 1979.

Crowds set fire to industrial parks and factories, hunted down Chinese workers and attacked
police during the riots, which have spread from the south to the central part of the country
following the start of the protests on Tuesday.
The violence has been sparked by the dispute concerning China stationing an oil rig in an area
of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. The two nations have been fighting out a
maritime battle over sovereignty and that battle has now seemingly come ashore.

Early Thursday morning a 1,000-strong mob stormed a giant Taiwanese steel mill in Ha Tinh
province, central Vietnam, where they set buildings ablaze and chased out Chinese
employees, according to a Taiwanese diplomat, Huang Chih-peng. He said both the head of
the provincial government, and his security chief, were at the mill at the time of the riots, but
did not "order tough-enough action".

Five Vietnamese workers, and 16 others described as Chinese, were killed during the rioting, a
doctor at a hospital in Ha Tinh told Reuters. An additional 90 people were injured in the

"There were about 100 people sent to the hospital last night. Many were Chinese. More are
being sent to the hospital this morning," the doctor said.

The attack on the steel mill comes just two days after other mobs burned and looted scores of
foreign-owned factories in south Vietnam, believing they were Chinese-run, though many
were actually Taiwanese or South Korean.

No deaths were reported in those initial attacks, and the Vietnamese government has since
tried to crack down on protesters. More than 600 have been arrested since Tuesday.

The protests have sparked an exodus of Chinese nationals, many of whom have fled to
neighbouring countries or further.

More than 600 are believed to have gone to Cambodia, while scores gathered at Ho Chi Minh
airport and bought one-way tickets to Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and China.

On Thursday, China's embassy in Vietnam urged the police to take "effective measures" to
protect Chinese citizens' safety and legal rights. China's tourism administration urged
Vietnam-bound tourists to carefully consider their plans, while Taiwan's ministry of foreign
affairs was printing thousands of stickers saying "I am from Taiwan" in Vietnamese and
English and distributing them to local Taiwanese business owners, to help them avoid the
wrath of anti-China mobs.

Anti-Chinese sentiment, while never far below the surface in Vietnam, has hit a formidable
peak since Beijing's deployment of the oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on 1

In an attempt to assert sovereignty Vietnam quickly sent a flotilla of ships to the area; these
became involved in skirmishes with 80 Chinese boats sent to protect the oil rig. China accused
the Vietnamese ships of ramming its vessels after the Chinese fleet deployed water cannon
against the Vietnamese. On Wednesday China reportedly sent two amphibious ships equipped
with anti-air missiles as further defence.

The Vietnamese government has issued stark warnings to the Chinese that this "aggression",
which had to date been met with Vietnamese diplomacy, would turn ugly if it continued.
Vietnam would "make no concession to China's wrongful acts", Major General Nguyen Quang
Dam, the coast guard commander, told local media. He said: "Their violent acts have posed
serious threats to the lives of Vietnamese members of law enforcement."

An article in the English-language daily Vietnam News was just as blunt: "The Vietnamese
people are angry. The nation is angry. We are telling the world that we are angry. We have
every right to be angry. "

"Over thousands of years we have shown we never cease fighting aggressors. We are proud of
our freedom-fighting forefathers, and resistance is in our blood. We are a small country, but
we are not weak. We will stand as one, united in the cause of protecting our motherland's

China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, urged Vietnam "not to attempt to further complicate and
aggravate the current maritime friction", according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

The paper said that Wang told Indonesia's foreign affairs minister, Marty Natalegawa: "China's
position on safeguarding its legitimate sovereign rights and interests is firm and clear and will
not change." .

On Thursday night China's top military leader blamed the Obama administration's new focus
on Asia for various disputes in the East and South China seas, saying "some neighbouring
countries" are using it as an opportunity to provoke problems.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, People's Liberation Army's chief of the general staff
Gen Fang Fenghui also warned that the US must be objective about tensions between China
and Vietnam or risk harming relations between Washington and Beijing. He defended China's
deployment of an oil rig in the South China Sea and said Beijing has no intention of
abandoning the drilling despite the protests it has spawned in Vietnam.

While China and Vietnam have considerable political and economic ties, anti-Chinese
sentiment in Vietnam goes back more than 1,000 years to when it was a Chinese colony.

The quest for sovereignty and self-rule has long been a theme, as has what Vietnam sees as
China's endless provocation over maritime boundaries around the Paracel and Spratly Islands
in the South China Sea an area that about 10 countries lay full, or partial, claim to because
of its rich oil and gas reserves.

The recent attacks on Vietnam's factories and industrial parks could damage the country's
economy. Industrial zones, like the Ha Tinh area where the mill was set ablaze, generate a
third of Vietnam's total export revenue, according to Reuters.

Vietnam's prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, issued a message Thursday urging Vietnamese
authorities to protect foreign investors. Businesses are expected to receive payouts for
incurred damages.

While it seems the Vietnamese and Chinese governments each want to downplay the severity
of the situation a leaked Chinese government circular obtained by the online China Digital
Times urged media to "not report on any news" regarding the protests the repercussions are
most closely felt on the ground.

"People don't feel safe here," Xu Wen Hong, a Chinese national who works at one of Vietnam's
iron and steel companies and bought a one-way ticket to China, told Reuters. "We just want to
get out of Vietnam. We're scared, of course. With all the factories burning, anyone would be

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Asia Pacific/Oil/Commodities/China/Cambodia

The protest in Vietnam was against the Chinese. There hasn't been such a big
and violent protest since 1979. This feud began because China wasn't respecting
Vietnams boundaries and created an oil rig on Vietnams territory. Vietnam claims
the South China Sea to be theirs but China is fighting for it too. Vietnamese people
became so angry with this oil rig that they began to attack the factories run by
Chinese. Sadly many were injured and 21 were killed. This just comes to show the
rage that these people had to hurt so many Chinese. More than 600 protesters were
arrested though. China felt attacked so they began to protect their oil rig but it all got
to hectic. Vietnam still didn't back down. Throughout the protest the Vietnamese
were possibly killing the countries economy which was bad because they burned
down one of their most important export factories.

1. Why did the oil rig anger the Vietnamese?

2. Have there been more conflicts with China before?
3. Who actually owns the South China Sea?