A 29-year-old Taiwanese businessman who fled Vietnam on Wednesday recounted his fear as protesters smashed buildings and equipment and threw gasoline bombs at factories like the one run by his family.
The man, who identified himself only by the surname Wang (王), was in the first group of Taiwanese who arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from southern Vietnam on Wednesday evening.
Protests erupted on Tuesday in Binh Duong Province, home to a large number of Taiwanese-owned businesses, against the installation of a Chinese oil rig last week in what Vietnam considers its territorial waters.
Nearly 1,000 Taiwanese-invested businesses have been affected by the violence in the province, as angry protesters attacked any building with signage in Chinese characters.
Protesters forced their way into many such factories, demanded a halt to operations, called on workers to strike, smashed doors, windows and computers, and burned documents.
Wang said he had never seen such “savage acts” in his six years in Vietnam, as he described protesters armed with wooden clubs, iron bars and stones attacking foreign-owned factories, breaking down doors and setting fires.
He said he saw a mob attack every ethnic Chinese person they came across and raze seven factories.
Even though the rioting has destroyed his family’s investment of several million US dollars, Wang said he was thankful to be able to return home unharmed.
Another businessman, surnamed Chen (陳), said he also saw rioters setting fires and looting.
Many of the Taiwanese left in Binh Duong, a province that borders Ho Chi Minh City, could only hide in hotels on Wednesday night for fear of more attacks, Chen said.
Some disguised themselves in an effort to escape from factories under siege, Chen said.
“The Vietnamese are truly abominable,” he said.
Tsai Yuan-chen, the head of a Taiwanese business union in Binh Duong, said that front gates have been broken and factories have been left abandoned at the Song Than Industrial Park.
He urged protesters to prevent an escalation of violence, urging them to consider Vietnam’s global reputation.
A Taiwanese woman named Liu (劉), who lives with her family in Ho Chi Minh City, said that Taiwanese residents in the area are worried.
“The mob surrounded our dormitory in the night. Police came and removed them, but as soon as the police were gone they came back,” she said.
“The mob was like a bunch of bandits,” a Taiwanese bicycle-maker surnamed Yen (嚴) said by telephone from Binh Duong. “Work has stopped at a lot of Taiwanese factories, and things are chaotic.”
The majority of Taiwanese in the area have made their way to a local hotel, while some stayed at the homes of friends and others hid in areas with a large number of foreign residents, Yen said.
Some of the Taiwanese who returned home on Wednesday blamed Vietnamese authorities for failing to take measures to stop the attacks, suggesting they may have turned a blind eye to the violence.