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Hanoi blamed for anti-China riots

Updated: 2014-05-17 03:31
By ZHANG YUNBI ( China Daily)

Mixed and misleading signals sent to fuel demonstrators, observers say

Hanoi blamed for anti-China riots

A Chinese coast guard films a Vietnamese surveillance ship, which attempted to ram a China Coast Guard vessel near a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea on May 2. [Photo/Xinhua]

Vietnam has sent mixed and misleading signals to stoke domestic public fervor by advocating anti-China protests and has made no concessions toward drilling operations by a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, observers said on Friday.

China's Ministry of Commerce strongly condemned the violence in Vietnam and said it feared casualties may rise.

Two Chinese nationals have been killed and more than 100 injured in the violence that followed protests against the oil rig, the Foreign Ministry said in Beijing on Friday.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung sent a text message to millions of citizens urging them to "boost their patriotism to defend the fatherland's sacred sovereignty with actions in line with the law".

Although he also said "bad elements" shouldn't be allowed to engage in violence, the Associated Press said that the message, sent late on Thursday and into Friday, didn't directly condemn the riots.

Reuters said anti-China violence subsided in Vietnam on Friday, but local media said protests had not shown any signs of easing.

Leading Vietnamese newspaper Thanh Nien said the protests had spread to Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces.

Images of protests along with articles saying that "protest is patriotism" are dominating Vietnam's online news portals.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday, "The Chinese government pays attention to and expresses serious concern about the violence in Vietnam."

Shen Danyang, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said, "Vietnam must ensure such incidents never happen again and take concrete action to repair economic and trade cooperation."

Li Jinming, a professor of maritime law and South China Sea studies at Xiamen University, said the Vietnamese authorities had given the go-ahead for the protests, which started earlier this week, and the ensuing riots had made Hanoi realize that it had failed to keep the protests peaceful.

"Vietnam is challenging China on two fronts — public protests and maritime confrontations around the oil rig," Li said.

Authorities in Cambodia said about 1,000 Chinese had crossed into the country since the violence began, Reuters reported.

Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the Vietnamese leaders' appeals against violence were aimed at damage control, "which is a good sign". Hanoi should rethink its strategy of provoking China on the territorial front, he said.

"Zhongjian Island, lying close to the Chinese oil rig, is totally out of the scope of bilateral disputes and Vietnam should act more proactively in the areas where both countries have reached consensus for joint development, not the opposite," Qu added.

The protests, mainly targeting Chinese companies in Vietnam, have left 400 factories damaged and forced 1,100 others — including South Korean, Japanese and Singaporean factories — to shut down, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Agence France-Presse commented, "An exodus of foreign firms would deal a heavy blow to an economy already hit by sluggish domestic demand, banking sector troubles and financial malaise among state-owned companies."

Edmund Malesky, an associate professor of political economy at Duke University in the United States, told AFP: "Foreign investors had concerns about the Vietnamese regulatory environment and governance, but they felt they were entering a secure and safe location. The riots have called that safety into question."

Vietnam's Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh said on Friday that every Vietnamese must be responsible for protecting foreign investors and labor.

"As they come to invest and work in Vietnam, they are making a contribution to Vietnam's socioeconomic development, and are protected by Vietnamese laws," the minister said.

Wang Jian and Xinhua contributed to this story.