Chinese rescue ships arrive in Vietnam to evacuate thousands of workers

16 Chinese critically injured in protests flown home from Vietnam on chartered medical flight, while transport ministry sends five ships

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 3:37pm

A port official says two Chinese passenger ships have arrived at a central Vietnamese port to evacuate Chinese nationals following deadly rioting last week.

The official said the boats with a capacity of 1,000 passengers each arrived at Vung Ang early on Monday.

Two Chinese workers were killed and 140 injured, just one incident in a wave of national unrest triggered by the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in a disputed section of the South China Sea.

Another 4,000 mainlanders are expected to be evacuated from Vietnam in the aftermath of deadly anti-China protests last week.

The port official didn't give his name because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media.

Vung Ang port is part of a massive Taiwanese steel mill complex that was overrun by an anti-China mob last week.

China's foreign ministry said on Sunday that more than 3,000 people had already been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon.

Watch: Thousands Chinese evacuated from Vietnam after anti-China riots

Two Chinese vessels arrived in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province on Monday morning and will sail back to China in the evening, the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said on a verified Twitter account.

Sixteen critically injured Chinese nationals were evacuated from Vietnam early on Sunday aboard a chartered medical flight arranged by the central government, the ministry said. They landed in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.

Xinhua reported workers from the China 19th Metallurgical Corporation, a contractor for an iron and steel plant being built by Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan's biggest investor in Vietnam, were among those evacuating. The plant, in Ha Tinh province, came under heavy attack by mobs during last week's violence.

Zhang Zhaoxiang, president of the Metallurgical Corporation of China, told China National Radio from Ha Tinh that 140 women and frail employees were also flown out early on Sunday.

He said another 3,900 people, including the company's contractors, were expected to return home by sea on Monday.

The transport ministry said it had sent five ships to Vietnam from Hainan on Sunday, with the first one expected to arrive early on Monday morning. Each of the five ships could take 1,000 passengers, Xinhua reported.

China's maritime safety administration said it had also sent a rescue vessel to nearby waters to provide emergency support.

The Hong Kong Immigration Department received two more requests for assistance from Hongkongers in Vietnam yesterday, raising the total to 10.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said earlier on Sunday that the department had handled eight cases.

He said air traffic between Hong Kong and Vietnam remained normal and that there were enough plane seats available to cater to demand.

In Taipei, President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered commercial jets to be on standby to evacuate Taiwanese in the event of further violence.

Taiwan-based China Airlines and EVA Air have already provided extra chartered flights to Vietnam.

The Central News Agency reported Vietnam's de facto chief envoy to Taiwan, Bui Trong Van, had formally apologised on behalf of Hanoi yesterday over the losses suffered by Taiwanese investors in last week's violence.

Van said reducing or removing land or business taxes could be one of the forms of compensation to Taiwanese companies, without giving a time frame when Hanoi would make a decision, the report said.

Meanwhile, in Pingxiang city, Guangxi, which borders Vietnam, a resident said cross-border trade and everyday life were going on as normal yesterday.

"Pingxiang is quite quiet today. All restaurants, cross-border markets and travel business are running normally," said the resident, who declined to be named.

"Highways to Pingxiang and Dongxing from other cities of Guangxi have also been running as normal."

Two-way trade between the mainland and Vietnam was worth US$50.2 billion last year, according to Vietnamese trade statistics.

The two nations signed an agreement last year as part of plans to boost trade to US$60 billion by 2015.

China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, announced on Sunday that it had suspended some bilateral exchange programmes and issued a new appeal for Chinese citizens to avoid travelling to Vietnam.

“China has raised the level of its travel warning for Chinese citizens, advising them not to go to Vietnam for the time being and has suspended some of bilateral exchange plans,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

“China will consider taking further steps depending on how the situation plays out.”

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press
Additional reporting by Danny Mok