China evacuates 3,000 nationals from Vietnam as violence turns deadly

Escalating anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam have left two Chinese nationals dead and 140 injured. Beijing said it was dispatching five ships to Vietnam to bring even more of its citizens to safety .
Policemen trying to disperse people protesting near the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 18, 2014. Growing anti-China sentiments in Vietnam have killed at least two Chinese citizens, prompting Beijing to pull out its citizens in the Southeast Asian country. Luong Thai Linh/EPA
Policemen trying to disperse people protesting near the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 18, 2014. Growing anti-China sentiments in Vietnam have killed at least two Chinese citizens, prompting Beijing to pull out its citizens in the Southeast Asian country. Luong Thai Linh/EPA

HANOI // Vietnam smothered anti-China protests on Sunday in a massive security operation after Beijing said it had evacuated 3,000 nationals from the country.

Deadly riots triggered by a territorial dispute with China have spooked foreign investors and the country’s authoritarian leadership alike.

As patrol ships from both countries remained locked in a standoff close to a Chinese oil rig in a disputed patch of the South China Sea, Beijing said it was sending the first of five ships to pull out other citizens wanting to leave Vietnam.

China also said that it would suspend some of its exchange plans with Vietnam and that it was advising Chinese not to visit the country.

China’s decision to deploy the massive oil rig on May 1 has been widely seen as it one of its most provocative steps in a campaign to assert its sovereignty in the waters. It triggered fury in Vietnam and the worst breakdown in ties between Hanoi and Beijing in years.

Tensions have been mounting between the two countries despite their sharing of a political ideology. Both nations are run by communist regimes that since the 1990s have embraced free market capitalism while retaining large state sectors and powerful internal security systems.

Last weekend, Vietnam permitted anti-China protests that drew thousands of people, a rare step that allowed it to amplify state anger against Beijing. Doing so was risky for authorities: dissident groups joined the protests, and by Tuesday and Wednesday, the rallies had morphed into riots targeting factories believed to be owned by Chinese companies, though many of those hit were Taiwanese. Two Chinese nationals were killed and more than 100 wounded.

Vietnam’s state-security apparatus yesterday ensured no one was able to protest, with thousands of police and security officers flooding southern Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Police were posted outside well-known dissidents’ houses, preventing them from leaving, according to activists.

In Ho Chi Minh City, police detained several demonstrators after dragging them from a park close to the city’s cathedral. Authorities in Hanoi closed off streets and a park close to the Chinese Embassy, while police barking into bullhorns shoved journalists and protesters away.

“I want to send a message that if we don’t stop China today, tomorrow it will be too late,” said Dao Minh Chu, as he was pushed away from the park near China’s embassy, where last week hundreds gathered without interference from authorities. Those protests were covered enthusiastically by state media, a clear sign of state sanction.

China has demanded that Hanoi protect Chinese people inside Vietnam, which is heavily dependent on Beijing economically. Hundreds of Chinese have left by commercial flights and across the land border into Cambodia, although there has been calm since Thursday.

* Associated Press

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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