HANOI: Up to 21 people were killed in Vietnam, a doctor said Thursday, and a huge foreign steel project was set ablaze as anti-China riots spread to the centre of the country a day after arson and looting in the south.
The doctor at a hospital in central Ha Tinh province said five Vietnamese workers and 16 other Chinese people were killed 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 Reuters.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh confirmed one death in the clashes, but described media reports and accounts on social networking sites of higher casualties as “groundless.”
China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese nationals had died and more than 100 had been hospitalized.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on police and both 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.
The anti-China riots erupted in industrial zones in the south of the country Tuesday after protests against Beijing placing an oil rig in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Hanoi.
The brunt of the violence has been borne by Taiwanese firms, mistaken by the rioters as being owned by mainland Chinese.
China expressed serious concern over the violence in Vietnam and urged it to punish criminals and compensate victims. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying suggested Hanoi had turned a blind eye to the protesters.