Hongkongers have narrow escape as they flee riots in Binh Duong, Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 3:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 6:51pm

Wednesday was the longest day for 30 Hong Kong white-collar workers - one they will never forget as they narrowly escaped the violence in Vietnam and fled the country.

As protests and riots flared on Tuesday night, they deserted the factory of Fittec International in Binh Duong where they worked, dashed to the staff quarters to pack personal belongings, then hid at a nearby golf club.

"The situation was very scary because you never knew what they would do next," said an information-technology technician who gave his name only as Pang, after landing at Hong Kong airport at about 11pm on Wednesday.

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

He said that as he and his 29 fellow workers fled the factory, protesters were smashing windows, looting and setting fire to their office.

"I have never been in such a dangerous and chaotic situation before," he said. "I dared not let my parents and brothers know what I have gone through. Otherwise, they would have worried about me a lot."

The group had a sleepless night at the golf club but were forced onto the move again on Wednesday as the number of mainland Chinese and Hongkongers taking refuge at the club made it a new target for the rioters.

"I left in a rush and left many belongings behind," Pang said.

Fittec, a tenant of the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, in Binh Duong, was forced to suspend production, putting almost 2,000 people out of work.

The industrial park - a Singapore-Vietnam joint venture - is the country's biggest manufacturing zone and a key economic engine.

Pang said hundreds of Vietnamese stormed into the office on Tuesday morning in a vain effort to provoke a labour strike. They returned in the afternoon, throwing stones, smashing windows and taking away some computers. Later in the evening, they returned again and set fire to the building. "They were full of anger," Pang said.

Fittec managed to arrange 30 air tickets for Pang and his colleagues - but even their journey to the airport was perilous.

"We just wanted to leave as soon as possible, but even the highway to the airport was full of danger as protesters were stopping traffic and attacking Chinese or people who looked like Chinese," he said.

Hong Kong shoe manufacturer Kingmaker Footwear returned about 100 staff to Hong Kong on Wednesday after it was forced to stop production when protesters stormed its factory at the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park on Tuesday, financial controller David Lai said.

He said no staff were harmed but he was not sure when production would resume.

Textile firm Texhong, which also froze production on Tuesday after rioters broke windows, computers and spindles, said it could not estimate its losses at this stage.

Analysts said the protests and riots would hurt foreign companies' appetite for investing in Vietnam and would affect the country's economic growth, which relies on manufacturing and exports.