Vietnam: China sends 5 ships to save citizens

Police halt a march on the Chinese embassy. Picture: Kyodo/Reuters
Police halt a march on the Chinese embassy. Picture: Kyodo/Reuters
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China is sending five ships to evacuate more of its citizens from Vietnam following a wave of anti-Chinese riots.

The Beijing government has already evacuated more than 3,000 nationals. The first ship set sail yesterday, while 16 critically injured Chinese left Vietnam on a chartered flight, said state-run Xinhua news agency.

Two Chinese workers have been killed and dozens more injured in unrest over a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters.

The Vietnamese government called for an end to the protests on Saturday with officials saying “illegal acts” would be halted as they threatened security.

But dissident groups have urged people to continue to rally in major cities.

Officials said anti-China protests had been broken up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

China’s decision to deploy a huge oil rig on 1 May in a disputed area of the South China Sea sparked the protests, after Vietnamese vessels entered the area, where they remain in a standoff with Chinese naval ships.

Both countries are run by Communist regimes which have been pursuing a free market capitalist agenda since the 1990s while retaining state control of the security apparatus and key sectors. Last weekend, Vietnam permitted anti-China protests that drew thousands of people, a rare step that allowed it to amplify state anger against Beijing. Dissident groups joined the protests, and by Tuesday and Wednesday, riots had led to factories being burned down by mobs who believed they were Chinese owned, though many were in fact Taiwanese.

Yesterday in Ho Chi Minh City, police detained several demonstrators after dragging them from a park close to the Ho Chi Minh cathedral. Authorities in Hanoi closed off streets and a park near the Chinese ­embassy.

“I want to send a message that if we don’t stop China today, tomorrow it will be too late,” said demonstrator Dao Minh Chu, as he was herded away from the park near China’s embassy, where last week around 500 people gathered without interference from state police.

China has demanded Hanoi protect Chinese people inside Vietnam, which is heavily dependent on Beijing economically. Hundreds of Chinese have left by commercial flights and across the land border into Cambodia, although there has been calm since Thursday.

Yesterday, China said it dispatched a passenger ship capable of carrying 1,000 people to Vietnam, the first of five vessels it planned to send. China’s foreign ministry said two charter flights carrying more than 290 Chinese employees from affected businesses arrived in Chengdu in south-west China yesterday afternoon. They included more than 100 injured.

The ministry also said that the government would suspend some of its bilateral exchange plans with Vietnam and that it was advising Chinese citizens not to visit Vietnam.

Beijing spokesman Hong Lei said the violence that has resulted in Chinese casualties and property losses had “damaged the atmosphere and conditions for exchanges and co-operation between China and Vietnam”.

A Taiwanese steel mill attacked on Wednesday employed 1,000 Chinese workers.

Yang Yang, a political scientist in Beijing, said there were so many Chinese working in Vietnam that sending ships might be more practical than planes. “It can also appease the unhappiness of the Chinese public over the violence against Chinese nationals in Vietnam,” he said.