Following violent disputes pertaining to China’s overextending of business into Vietnam waters, Vietnam has stopped its protests. China has evacuated 3,000 of its workers and citizens in order to protect them from harassment. Multiple reports of protestors vandalizing and attacking Chinese workers and China owned business have surfaced since the protests began. On Sunday, two chartered flights were arranged by China to bring nearly 300, mostly injured, workers from the hostile area. Two Chinese citizens were killed during the violence, and the highest volume of altercations was in the central coast province of Ha Tinh.
When the demonstrations in Vietnam took a dangerous turn last week, the country’s government made a strict vow to stop any continuation of the unruly protests. They have followed through on their vow, after several arrests were made -according to eyewitness accounts- of groups starting to organize demonstrations. Xinhua, the Chinese news source, stated that the country’s Ministry of Transport is planning on sending five ships to continue to evacuate those in danger. Following China’s introduction of a $1 billion oil rig into Vietnam’s EEZ (Economic Exclusive Zone), protests began and escalated quickly. Protestors attacked foreign factories and establishments, especially those owned by China. Eyewitness accounts detail rioting, looting, and burning of these establishments.
Vietnamese authorities originally tolerated the protests. However, once the instances of vandalism and injury were reported, the Vietnam government intervened immediately to stop any form of protest. Text messages were sent from the government to cell-phone users in the country urging that no one participate in the illegal protests that cause disorder and threaten public safety. Chinese government officials have been continuously urging the Vietnamese government to intervene against its citizens since the outcry first began. Vietnam officials obliged, following the arrests of hundreds of suspects. Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security, Tran Dai Quang, told reporters that the attacks are regrettable, and dozens of officers were injured trying to mitigate the ordeal. Van Cung, a retired army colonel who was participating in the revolt, stated that the intention of the protest was to support the government in chasing away the oil rig.
The disputes are not only confined to land. Vietnam officials criticized China of behaving aggressively by sending military ships to the area surrounding the oil rig. Vietnam has issued the demand for the removal of the oil rig from disputed waters. An official from the Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance Department told reporters that China had 119 ships protecting the rig, including: fishing boats, coast guard vessels, and warships. The official also reported that the Chinese ships were attempting to provoke Vietnamese vessels by firing water cannons and ramming them. China accused the Vietnamese vessels of similar actions, citing that they have been attempting to disrupt the drilling operations of their oil rig. Fang Fenghui, the chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, stated that they are not trying to causing trouble, but they are not afraid of it. Analysts describe the aggressive actions taken by Vietnamese inhabitants as the product of years of frustration with “bullying” from China and its businesses. Trade between the two countries was valued at $50 billion in 2013.
By Andres Loubriel