Beijing strongly condemns attacks and urges Hanoi to punish offenders
Rioting destroyed this Chinese-owned shoe factory in the southern Vietnamese province of Binh Duong on Wednesday. [Photo/Agenices]
At least two Chinese workers were killed and more than 100 injured in escalating anti-China riots and protests in Vietnam.
Hundreds of Chinese factories operating in the country were either destroyed by rioters or forced to close.
Beijing said the rioting and protests had been staged "with the indulgence and connivance" of the Vietnamese government.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi "strongly condemned" the violence, and lodged a protest against the Vietnamese government.
In a telephone call to Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on Thursday night, Wang said Hanoi bore unshirkable responsibility for the riots against Chinese businesses in Vietnam.
He urged Vietnam to take effective measures to end the violence, severely punish the criminals and compensate the Chinese enterprises and individuals for their losses.
Many of the factories were operated by businesses from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Singapore.
Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese workers were confirmed dead, but there were fears that many more Chinese nationals may have been killed.
A doctor at a hospital in the central Vietnamese province of Ha Tinh told Reuters that 16 Chinese and five Vietnamese workers were killed on Wednesday.
A high-ranking official at China 19th Metallurgical Corp said: "By our count, the hospital has received 75 Chinese nationals. Dozens of Chinese were sent to another provincial hospital."
His company was one of the worst-hit on Wednesday among the Chinese enterprises operating in Vietnam.
A steel mill in Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Plastics from Taiwan was destroyed.
Local official Dang Quoc Khanh said one male Chinese worker was killed in the chaos and at least 149 people injured, Vietnam Television reported, adding that police had arrested 76 people.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday that the violence targeting Chinese had "a direct link with the Vietnamese government's indulgence and connivance in recent days toward domestic anti-China forces and lawbreakers".
The attacks against Chinese businesses erupted after anti-China protests and after Vietnamese ships repeatedly harassed drilling operations by a Chinese oil company in waters off China's Zhongjian Island in the South China Sea, according to media reports.
Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the root cause of the latest turmoil was media campaigns backed by the Vietnamese government that fanned anti-China sentiments.
"Hanoi even sent reporters to the forefront of maritime confrontations at the oil rig. Even worse, the Vietnamese government has not taken measures to stop the violence. It will pay a price for this," Qu said.
Cambodian immigration police said 600 Chinese had crossed into the country through the border with southern Vietnam on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.
At Ho Chi Minh City airport, Chinese were arriving in large groups on Wednesday, queuing to grab tickets or get on the first flights to Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
Singapore, Vietnam's second-largest investor after Japan, called on Hanoi to take urgent action before the security situation worsened and investor confidence was undermined.
Jonathan London, a professor at City University of Hong Kong, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying the rioting showed the hazards of nationalist fervor being unleashed.
The unrest was also hurting the country's reputation as a safe investment destination, an Associated Press report said.
Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh said 400 factories had been damaged.
"The investment image that we have been building over the past 20 years is turning very ugly," the state-run Labor newspaper quoted him as saying.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told police on Thursday that anyone involved in violence should be punished severely, but peaceful protests over the past few days had been "legitimate".
Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Vietnam had long been gripped by nationalistic sentiment and the government's "irrational moves have posed a serious threat to regional stability".
"Hijacking public opinion will only make things worse and sabotage mutual trust with China", Li said.
Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, described Vietnam as a "troublemaker", saying it had intensified provocation recently against China.
China had exercised restraint to the largest extent and Vietnam should never expect Beijing to trade territorial sovereignty for short-term peace, Wu said.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.