Vietnam prime minister issues plea for calm with further anti-Chinese protests expected in Ho Chi Minh City

Prime minister issues plea for calm and Beijing security chief calls for tough action with further demonstrations expected in Ho Chi Minh City

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 6:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 10:30am

Vietnam's prime minister appealed for calm last night ahead of expected anti-China demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City today.

A text message from Nguyen Tan Dung was sent to every cellphone in the country urging citizens not to "commit violations of the law" in defence of the "sovereignty of the sacred fatherland".

His office also ordered the police and local leaders to halt further illegal demonstrations. His plea came after China's deployment of an oil rig in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea unleashed a wave of deadly protests.

Lieutenant general Hoang Kong Tu, chief of the investigative police under the Public Security Ministry, confirmed that two ethnic Chinese were killed and 140 injured in riots across 22 of the country's 63 provinces on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Watch: Protesters torch Chinese factories in Vietnam after South China Sea dispute escalated

About 200 business premises were damaged. The figures were similar to those released by Beijing on Thursday.

The prospect of further protests today prompted Beijing's security chief to urge Vietnam to take tough measures to stem any violence. "The Vietnamese government should be accountable for the violent attacks on Chinese companies and staff," Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun was quoted as saying in a phone conversation with Vietnam's minister of public security, Tran Dai Quang.

Reports of protest preparations in Ho Chi Minh City circulated widely on Vietnamese social media yesterday. They included planned march routes in the south of the city.

The marches are expected to start at about 9am and will head towards the Chinese consulate.

One of the most persistent rumours is that demonstrators in rural areas were offered money to join protests on Wednesday and again today.

But a local journalist said yesterday it was unclear whether further protests would take place given the warning by Vietnam's authoritarian government.

The Chinese government and ethnic Chinese in Vietnam criticised the absence of police during violence on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But the police said on Thursday they had detained 1,400 demonstrators in southern and central regions of the country.

And security has also been stepped up at rumoured gathering places for today's protests in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Hong Kong government has issued warnings to travellers about further protests today.

Hong Kong immigration officials said they had received eight requests for assistance by last night.

Additional reporting by Reuters