Hong Kong issues Vietnam travel warning after mobs torch Chinese factories

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities warn against travel to Vietnam after protesters, angry over oil drilling in disputed waters, run amok

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 12:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 11:30am

The Hong Kong government issued an amber travel warning for Vietnam after protesters there vandalised hundreds of foreign-owned factories and torched at least 15 of them.

The riots followed a large protest by workers on Tuesday against China's recent placement of an oil rig in disputed waters around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

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

The rioting in Binh Duong province followed protests by up to 20,000 workers at industrial parks near Ho Chi Minh City. Smaller groups of men attacked factories they believed were mainland Chinese-run, but many were Taiwanese or South Korean, the provincial government said.

"Everyone is terrified," said Serena Liu, chairwoman of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam. "Some people tried to drive out of Binh Duong, but looters had put up roadblocks."

More than 200 Taiwanese took shelter at the Mira Hotel in Thu Dau Mot, according to Chen Bor-show, director general of the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in Ho Chi Minh City.

There were similar protests in nearby Dong Nai province.

"The workers [don't care] which country the factory belongs to," said Bob Hsu, general manager of Taiwan's Great Super Enterprise, which shut its garment factories in Dong Nai. Protesters looking at company names "are just trying to find a Chinese word. It includes Korean, Japanese factories".

"Factories with Chinese writing or names are targets of destruction," a Hong Kong garment manufacturer in Ho Chi Minh who did not want to be named said. His factory had so far escaped the protests unscathed, partly helped by a disguised Chinese identity. "We are a joint venture with a local Vietnamese investor, and luckily we don't have any Chinese writing at our factory entrance," he said.

Felix Chung Kwok-pan, a lawmaker for the textiles and garment constituency, said there were hundreds of Hong Kong-owned factories in Vietnam, and the labour-intensive industry was the biggest victim of the anti-China riots.

Hong Kong's Immigration Department said by 10pm yesterday it had received three requests for help from Hongkongers in Vietnam.

The foreign ministry in Beijing and its embassy in Hanoi issued warnings to Chinese citizens. The embassy's website said it saw no end to the attacks and urged Chinese to take precautions.

In Taipei, President Ma Ying-jeou told a national security conference that if the situation worsened, the government would send aircraft to evacuate its nationals.

Singapore called in Vietnam's ambassador to the country to voice concerns over the protests, according to a statement from the city-state's foreign ministry.

"Singapore views this issue very seriously given our close economic cooperation with Vietnam," the ministry said in the statement. The government had "requested the Vietnamese authorities to restore order urgently".

The United States issued an appeal for the dispute over the oil rig to be settled through dialogue, not intimidation.

Bloomberg, Associated Press, Reuters