China evacuates 3 000 over Vietnam unrest

2014-05-18 09:09
Policemen ask people to leave a street near to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi. (Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP)

Policemen ask people to leave a street near to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi. (Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP)

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Beijing - China has evacuated more than 3 000 of its nationals from Vietnam following deadly anti-Chinese violence, state media said on Sunday, as Vietnamese authorities clamped down to prevent any further unrest threatening vital foreign investment.

Xinhua news agency said the evacuees included 16 Chinese who were "critically injured" last week in unrest triggered by Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters that has triggered rage in Vietnam.

The recent chaos, centred on foreign-owned enterprises, marked the worst anti-China unrest in Vietnam in decades and has stained the developing country's reputation as a stable, welcoming destination for foreign investment.

China said it was dispatching five ships to Vietnam to bring even more nationals to safety as Vietnamese activists sought to stage further demonstrations on Sunday against Chinese "aggression".

The attempted protests were thwarted, however, by a security crackdown that saw hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes security personnel restricting access to streets leading to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and other suspected protest sites in the capital.

Blogs linked to activist groups said several protest bids in various other cities were thwarted by police who detained a number of activists. The government had earlier ordered authorities nationwide to ramp up security to nip any Sunday demonstrations in the bud.

Hundreds of enterprises hit

China's positioning of the oil rig in waters claimed by both sides has inflamed long-simmering enmity between the two quarrelsome communist neighbours, who have fought territorial skirmishes in the past.

Worker demonstrations spread to 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces in the last week, according to the Vietnamese government, with enraged mobs torching foreign-owned factories and enterprises believed to be linked to China or which employed Chinese personnel.

Hundreds of enterprises were hit, Vietnam's government has said.

The government has in the past occasionally allowed protesters to vent anger at the country's giant neighbour for domestic political gain.

But Vietnam depends heavily on foreign investment for development, and the anti-China violence on Tuesday and Wednesday has sent the government scrambling to limit the damage.

"We will not allow any acts targeting foreign investors, businesses or individuals, to ensure that the regrettable incidents will not be repeated," Dang Minh Khoi, assistant to Vietnam's foreign minister, told reporters in a briefing on Saturday.

Long-term impact

"We ask countries to continue to encourage their investors and citizens to rest assured on doing business in Vietnam."

Officials told the briefing that the violence had left two Chinese nationals dead and 140 injured. More than 300 suspected perpetrators were being prosecuted, they said.

Vietnam attracted $21.6bn in foreign direct investment in 2013, up from $16.3bn the year earlier, according to government figures.

The events could have a potential long-term impact on the country's image as a safe place for business, said Edmund Malesky, an expert on Vietnam's investment-fuelled development at Duke University.

"The riots have called that safety into question. In the future, foreign investors will have to balance Vietnam's advantageous labour costs and quality against this potential instability," he said.

More than 3 000 Chinese nationals had been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, Xinhua reported early on Sunday.

China's foreign ministry also advised its nationals against travelling to Vietnam for now following what it called the "explosion of violence" and urged Chinese citizens to increase safety precautions.

Read more on:    china  |  vietnam
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