The government yesterday condemned the violent anti-China protests in Vietnam over Hanoi’s ongoing territorial dispute with Beijing, demanding that the Vietnamese government get the situation under control after the factories and offices of Taiwanese businesses in the country’s southeast were damaged during what it called “acts of rioting” by the protesters.
Speaking at a hastily convened press conference yesterday morning, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was still trying to gather information on the factories damaged in the unrest in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces that ensued after an anti-Chinese protest devolved into a violent attack against foreign businesses on Tuesday afternoon.
The mass demonstration was launched over the weekend to denounce Beijing’s installation of an oil rig close to the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea, which are claimed by Taiwan, China and Vietnam. The three also claim sovereignty over all or part of the sea, as do Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The protest intensified on Tuesday and participants started damaging any factory with Chinese-language signs, including those owned by Taiwanese companies.
“We condemn the violent acts, but we believe the situation is calming down since the Vietnamese government has deployed military and police forces to the area,” Lin said.
No deaths were reported, despite rumors said that two Chinese workers at a Taiwan-owned factory were killed, but a Taiwanese businessman was confirmed injured and received three stitches, while reports of another injury case have yet to be verified, according to Lin.
The minister said he has summoned Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei Director Bui Trong Van and demanded that Hanoi take every measure necessary to protect Taiwanese businesspeople and their families in Vietnam.
The ministry elevated the travel alert level for the two provinces where the violence occurred to “orange,” the second-highest threat level on the ministry’s four-color system, and revised the alert for Ho Chi Minh City upward to “yellow.”
Lin said the ministry has contacted China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) and EVA Airaways Corp (長榮航空) to arrange additional flights for Taiwanese who want to leave Vietnam, but that it did not think an evacuation was necessary.
Asked if the situation warranted a statement from the government reasserting Taiwan’s sovereignty and status as a country separate from China, the minister said people know that both sides “are governed separately” and that issuing such a statement would “require further study.”
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞萍) said that the relationship between Taiwan and China was not relevant to the cause of the unrest, adding that the Vietnamese protesters “could not tell Taiwanese businesspeople from Chinese businesspeople.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) issued a four-point statement urging the government to prepare evacuation plans for Taiwanese in Vietnam and demand that the Vietnamese government protect the property and safety of Taiwanese there.
DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told a press conference that the political implications behind the protests deserve more attention, since President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has yet to comment on Beijing’s dispatch of the oil rig, despite the US having done so.
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