Vietnam denies giving Taiwanese firm approval to fly island’s flag to distance itself from anti-Chinese sentiment

Hanoi says it backs one-China policy after Beijing protests about companies’ efforts to protect themselves against anti-China protests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 10:30pm

Vietnam has denied claims that it approved a Taiwanese firm’s decision to fly the island’s flag at its premises to distance itself from widespread anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.

Beijing complained to the Vietnamese government after a number of firms from the self-ruled island said they had flown the flag to protect their premises and staff during anti-China protests.

On Thursday, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam upheld the one-China policy and that the flag flying was down to the decisions of individual Taiwanese companies.

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“The local authorities have complied with Vietnam’s consistent policy on Taiwan,” she said in a press briefing.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland and has never renounced the use of force to do so.

The protests had been motivated by concerns that mainland Chinese investors will dominate Vietnam’s new special economic zones.

The firm said it had incurred about US$1 million in losses during a 2014 protest, triggered by the deployment of an oil rig by Beijing in a disputed region of the South China Sea, in which more than 20 people were killed and over 100 were injured.

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On Saturday Taipei-based Central News Agency reported a claim by Taiwanese firm Kaiser 1 Furniture that Hanoi had granted permission for the firm to fly the island’s flag after businesses from the island raised concerns about being targeted during nationwide anti-China protests in June.

After the protests, the Vietnamese authorities granted tax breaks to Taiwanese firms as compensation, and explained that its citizens could not tell the difference between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese firms, and had mistakenly targeted the latter.

Chou Li-lin, secretary general of the Council of Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam, said firms had flown Taiwanese flags since 2015 whenever protests against China occurred to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

But she said she did not know if the Vietnamese government had given its approval.

“So far, we have heard nothing from the Vietnamese government over whether it has already allowed companies from Taiwan to fly the ROC [Republic of China] flag to differentiate us from those of the Chinese companies,” she said.

Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung