Ha Tinh violence: anatomy of a riot

The Party Committee in the central province of Ha Tinh has narrated the sequence of events that led to the anti-China protests in which one person was reported killed at the Vung Ang Economic Zone on May 15.

Police and military personnel disperse the protesting crowd outside the Formosa plant at the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province (Photo: SGGP)

At 6 a.m. on May 14, a group of 40 people in workers’ uniforms traveled on 20 motorcycles from Ky Long Commune, Ky Anh District, towards the Formosa Company’s plant in the zone.

They held banners saying ‘Hoang Sa, Truong Sa belong to Vietnam’, ‘China must withdraw its oil rig from Vietnamese waters’, and ‘Long live Vietnam, long live President Ho Chi Minh’ in reference to China’s placing of oil drilling rig HD-981 in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Authorities including the military and police were present and urged the group to calm down and not be exploited by malicious elements.

Twenty minutes later the workers drove along National Highway 1A and were joined by around 20 passers-by.

By 10.30 a.m. the group returned to the Taiwanese-owned Formosa plant, moved towards its administrative area, and chanted slogans.

Local authorities continued to restrain and break them up.
But by 1.30 p.m. around 200 people with banners and Vietnamese flags returned, shouting slogans.

Some extreme elements incited the crowd to enter the factory and asked the workers at the site to join the protests, ignoring the authorities’ efforts to break them up.

Vietnamese workers at the plant’s high-pressure furnace were incited to chase and assault Chinese nationals when a bus carrying foreign experts and workers arrived at the site.

Police and border military personnel managed to defuse the situation.

Outside, people kept chanting slogans as the number of protestors swelled to 500 and obstructed traffic.

At 4.30 p.m. a fight erupted between Chinese and Vietnamese workers. Some people in the crowd at the gate shouted that a Vietnamese worker had been beaten to death at the furnace site, leading to a quarrel between 5,000 Vietnamese and 1,000 Chinese workers.

Some rowdy elements began to set fire to some temporary houses, others took advantage of the darkness to steal construction materials like iron and steel, electric cables, air conditioners, and laptops from the site. 

By midnight authorities successfully broke up the crowds, stamped out the fires, and brought about normalcy inside and outside the plant.

But by then one person had been injured and died while being taken to hospital and 149 others were injured.

The Ky Anh District police have begun to investigate and have so far arrested 74 people, most of them workers at Formosa.

The company has 30,400 workers at the Vung Ang Economic Zone, 4,200 of them foreigners.

By Duong Quang – Translated by Hai Mien

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