Anti-China riots in Vietnam ease after 1,400 protesters arrested

Crackdown by Vietnamese police brings halt to deadly violence, but tensions remain with another big demonstration expected tomorrow

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 11:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 3:23am

Anti-China protests in Vietnam eased yesterday after the arrest of more than 1,400 demonstrators.

There were no reports of fresh violence following the deadly wave of unrest that swept through 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces from Tuesday.

It was triggered by China's deployment of an oil rig in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

More than 400 factories were damaged by mobs and the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed yesterday that two Chinese nationals had been killed.

Many Chinese in Vietnam were still fearful for their safety yesterday as speculation mounted about another demonstration tomorrow.

The arrests in southern and central Vietnam were reported by the Thanh Nien newspaper, an official mouthpiece of Vietnam's Communist Party Youth League.

Three hundred were charged with participating in protests on Wednesday and Thursday. And in Binh Duong, a province on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, police arrested 950 protesters.

In Dong Nai province, police detained 224 rioters. They faced charges of causing public disorder and damaging property damage, the report said.

At least 76 people were also arrested in Ha Tinh province, where a Chinese worker was killed on Wednesday.

The Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi called on its members to hang Vietnamese flags on their factory gates and to remove any Chinese characters or signs visible from the outside. Many of the factories attacked were Taiwanese-owned.

Meanwhile, the tough rhetoric from Beijing and Hanoi continued, raising fears about the impact of the riots on bilateral ties. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung sent a text message urging citizens to act in defence of national sovereignty, in accordance with the law.

He added: "Bad elements should not be allowed to instigate extremist actions that harm the country's interests and image."

People's Liberation Army chief of general staff Fang Fenghui vowed China would continue to operate the oil rig.

"We do not make trouble. We do not create trouble. But we are not afraid of trouble," he said after talks with his US counterpart General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon.

Ouyang Yujing, director general of the foreign ministry's department of boundary and ocean affairs, said Vietnam had sent more than 60 vessels to waters around the oil rig.

He said Vietnamese vessels had rammed Chinese vessels 510 times since May 2. Vietnam had also dumped large volumes of steel-wire fishing nets, wood piles, buoys and other floating objects in the water, resulting in a "grave threat to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea", he said.

Ouyang said Vietnam had designated 57 oil and gas blocks in disputed waters, and 37 drilling platforms and two wells were sited some 60 nautical miles from the Paracel Islands.

"It is not that China is unable to obstruct Vietnam's operations," he said. "But taking into consideration overall bilateral relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea, China has exercised great restraint."

In Hong Kong, about 1,000 people have cancelled their trips to Vietnam.

Additional reporting by Lai Ying-kit, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse