Anti-Chinese sentiments turned deadly in Vietnam as a mob of 1,000 rioted against a Taiwanese steel mill, leaving 90 injured and 21 dead. The riot, which broke out Wednesday night, marks one of the most violent Vietnamese-Chinese confrontations since 1979.
This conflict was triggered by the recent deployment of a Chinese oil rig in an area of the South China Sea already claimed by Vietnam. Many of the Vietnamese view the deployment of the oil rig as an intrusion on their sovereignty and have responded with protests and riots.
From Wednesday night and continuing on until the next morning, rioters stormed a Taiwanese steel mill in the Ha Tinh province where they torched buildings and chased out Chinese employees.
Although Foreign Ministry Spokesmen Le Hai Binh confirmed only one death, a doctor in Ha Tinh told Reuter that at least 5 Vietnamese and 16 Chinese employees were killed in the riots. In addition to the 21 dead, at least 100 were injured and the numbers continue to increase as more and more victims are hospitalized.
Although the riots seem to have been directed towards Chinese companies, a report received by CNN claims that attacks were indiscriminate and attacked Korean and Japanese firms as well.
This recent riot is the culmination of several escalating protests as China and Vietnam continue to clash over territory. Vietnamese officials claim that Chinese ships have harassed Vietnamese ships around the Paracel Islands by ramming into them and shooting them with water cannons.
The steel mill, one of the largest foreign-invested projects in Vietnam, employs up to 1,000 Chinese nationals. Investors had high hopes in the project and the recent riot has certainly dented their confidence in the mill. If order isn’t restored quickly, investor confidence will soon die off.
Although some supported the deployment of the steel mill, the US Department of State anxiously watches as they consider the decision a “provocative” move that “raises tensions.” The US Department of State tells CNN, “This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a way that undermines peace and stability in the region.”
China seems persistent in keeping the oil rig deployed despite their tense relationship with Vietnam. General Fang Fenghui of the People’s Liberation Army told a news conference that they will ensure the safety of the rig and ensure its continued operation.
[Image via Reuters/Stringer]