Vietnam protests

Protesters wave flags and hold placards on a street outside a factory in Binh Duong on Wednesday as anti-China protesters set more than a dozen factories on fire in Vietnam, according to state media. (VNExpress / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images / May 14, 2014)

Anti-China riots in Vietnam left two Chinese citizens dead and more than 100 injured, China’s state-run media said Thursday, as officials in Taiwan worked to evacuate its nationals from the Southeast Asian country.

About 1,000 Taiwanese-owned companies have been affected by the violence and officials in Taipei have lodged a diplomatic protest with Hanoi. Meanwhile, Taiwan drafted demands for compensation and arranged special airline flights to take its citizens to safety.

Vietnamese have been angered by Beijing’s move to install an oil rig this month in waters also claimed by their nation. Protests that began Sunday in Hanoi spiraled this week into violence that damaged numerous factories run by Taiwanese, one of Vietnam’s chief sources of foreign investment.

Mobs attacked, looted and set fire to manufacturers near the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the violence spread to north-central Vietnam on Thursday.

The mobs were apparently unable or unwilling to distinguish Taiwanese businesses from those run by mainland Chinese.

China’s state-run New China News Agency said two Chinese nationals died and more than 100 were injured in the attacks. One slain mainland Chinese was killed in a Taiwanese bicycle factory in Binh Duong province, while the other died in central Ha Tinh province, the news service said. Another 10 Chinese nationals were unaccounted for.

Two Taiwanese were also hurt, the island’s official news agency reported.

Hundreds of Taiwanese have fled from areas near Ho Chi Minh City where many Taiwanese companies are clustered.

“There are many demonstrations every day, including all industrial zones,” said Lee Wang-chung, Taiwanese general director of a family-owned motor vehicle parts factory outside Ho Chi Minh City. “In order to avoid more serious problems, all of the companies stopped working temporarily.”

“South Vietnam almost stopped working from yesterday,” added Lee, who was reached on Thursday by email after his family shuttered the plant and left their base in the southern city of Bien Hoa for another site nearby. “We don’t know how many days before we could start working again.”

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said Thursday that Beijing had summoned the Vietnamese ambassador to lodge “solemn representations” and to demand that Vietnam act to protect the safety and property of Chinese citizens and enterprises there.

“The Vietnamese side has an inescapable responsibility for the beating, smashing, looting and burning targeted at China and other countries,” she said Thursday. “We are shocked and seriously concerned.”

The Taiwanese foreign ministry has set up emergency call numbers and worked with two airlines to make seats available for Taiwanese who want to go home. Some had already fled Wednesday.

This violence, which also hit other foreign-owned factories, threatens to curtail foreign investment in Vietnam. The country’s economic growth, currently about 5% a year, depends largely on foreign investment, which is led by Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Taiwanese manufacturers began working in Vietnam in the late 1980s, when the country opened up to foreign investors. Now, the country is a major manufacturer of garments, furniture and machinery.

Vietnamese authorities said they had stopped most of the aggression by Thursday.

Special correspondent Jennings reported from Taipei and Times staff writer Makinen from Beijing.