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AKIPRESS.COM - More than 3,000 Chinese workers left Vietnam on Monday on ships chartered by their government after deadly unrest broke out last week amid a dispute over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
Four ships arrived at Vung Ang port and left after taking aboard more than 3,000 people, according to the Associated Press reporter outside the facility and a port official who didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. The workers were bused to the ships, where riot police were stationed.
Vung Ang port is part of a large Taiwanese steel mill complex under construction 350 kilometres south of Hanoi that was overrun by an anti-China mob on Wednesday and Thursday. Two Chinese workers were killed and 140 injured in the attack, which also left parts of the facility on fire. Linh said around 3,000 Chinese workers were employed constructing the complex.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese nationals injured in the protests and some others had already been flown home.
“The Chinese government is highly concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens in Vietnam,” Hong said.
China and Vietnam each have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea that have triggered tensions for years.
The latest round erupted May 1, when Beijing deployed a large oil rig close to the Paracel Islands, which are controlled by China but claimed by Vietnam. Hanoi immediately sent ships to confront the rig. They are now locked in a standoff with Chinese ships protecting the rig, raising fears of possible conflict.
One man in Vung Ang said Chinese and Vietnamese workers in the town had a history of fighting each other that long predated the oil rig standoff, often when drunk.
“When the Chinese workers were living here there were clashes ever week. I’m happy they are leaving,” said the man, who gave his name only as Thuan and was drinking a beer near the port. “Maybe there will be better security and public order now for the community.”
There has been no violence or protests since last Thursday. Chinese people wishing to have been able to leave the country independently with no impediments since then.
While noting that countries are obligated to help their citizens, Jonathan London, a Vietnam expert at Hong Kong’s City University, said sending ships “broadcasts to the world a sense that China is a victim, creates an image of a destabilized Vietnam (and) sends ominous signals and veiled threats of punitive action.”