More than 20 people were killed in Vietnam and a huge foreign steel project set ablaze as anti-China riots spread to the centre of the country a day after arson and looting in the south, a doctor and company officials said on Thursday.
A doctor at a hospital in central Ha Tinh province said five Vietnamese workers and 16 other people described as Chinese were killed on Wednesday night in rioting, one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations since the neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.
“There were about a hundred people sent to the hospital last night. Many were Chinese. More are being sent to the hospital this morning,” the doctor at Ha Tinh General Hospital told a foreign news agency.
Local media has, however, said only person was killed, while China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese nationals had died and more than 100 hospitalized.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on police and state and local authorities to restore order and ensure the safety of people and property in the affected areas.
“Appropriate measures should be taken immediately to help businesses stabilize quickly and return to normal production activities,” he said in a statement, without elaborating.
The Planning and Investment Ministry blamed the clashes on “extremists” and warned that they could seriously affect the investment environment in Vietnam.
Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan’s biggest investor in Vietnam, said its upcoming steel plant in Ha Tinh was set on fire after fighting between its Vietnamese and Chinese workers. One Chinese worker was killed and 90 others injured, it said in a statement in Taipei.
It was not immediately clear if the casualties were among those admitted to the Ha Tinh hospital.
The plant is expected to be Southeast Asia’s largest steel making facility when it is completed in 2017. No details of fire damage or financial losses were immediately available, the company said.
The Ha Tinh industrial park, estimated to cost more than $20 billion, is more than half complete. When finished in 2020, it will have a port, a 2,100-MW power plant and six furnaces, Vietnamese media say.