News / Asia

Vietnamese Workers Stage Anti-China Protests

Protesters chant slogans during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 13, 2014.
Protesters chant slogans during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 13, 2014.
Thousands of Vietnamese workers have staged anti-China protests over Beijing's decision to locate an oil rig in waters of the South China Sea also claimed by Hanoi.

Video posted on social media Tuesday showed large numbers of Vietnamese in work uniforms in front of factories with Chinese names, waving national flags, honking their motorbike horns and chanting anti-China slogans.

A witness at Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) who wishes to remain anonymous told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that it is a tumultuous scene.

“There are many people and it is totally chaotic. I do not know how to use words to describe it. I have not heard from the authorities so I do not know what is really going on,” said the witness.

It is not immediately clear how much damage the protests have caused.

In an unusual move, Vietnam allowed anti-China protests to take place across Vietnam over the weekend, and its tightly-controlled state media were granted permission to report on the rallies.

While the general public welcome anti-China protests as the way to express patriotism, some warn against extreme approaches that could impact Vietnam’s economy.

Economist Nguyen Quang A said nationalism is running high in Vietnam, and he cautioned the way workers reacted.

“It is those workers who will suffer the most as they damaged factories where they work. Their actions will cause investors to lose trust in the business environment in Vietnam. They might leave Vietnam, affecting its economy. Moreover, crowds of hundreds even thousands of people will spark social unrest that could be out of control,” he said.

China has not commented on the latest protests.

At the just concluded ASEAN summit in Burma, also known as Myanmar, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung accused Beijing of "extremely dangerous action" and called for the bloc to take a united stand on the issue.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by saying Hanoi's efforts to rally ASEAN against Beijing were bound to fail.

Secretary of State John Kerry Monday said the United States was "deeply concerned" by China's location of the oil rig. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a phone call the move was "provocative" and "aggressive."

In response, China's Foreign Ministry said Wang urged Kerry to "speak and act cautiously," saying he should be objective when talking about China.

The comments come as Beijing's army chief begins a trip to the U.S., as part of efforts to increase U.S.-China military cooperation and reduce maritime tensions.

Analysts say the dispute is likely to be discussed during the U.S. visit of Fang Fenghui, China's chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army.

The state-run China Daily newspaper said the trip will also highlight both countries' willingness for closer military cooperation.

Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum, told VOA it was crucial that U.S.-China military ties improved.

"Given what you have in the South China Sea, and the East China Sea, quite frankly, I think what you have is an opportunity for the two militaries to talk, to try to get some better understanding of each others' intentions, so that the possibility of a miscalculation or an accident at sea is diminished," he said.

Glosserman said military relations were starting "at a very low base," but he expects visits such as this one will help provide for more substantive exchanges.

Fang's visit comes at the invitation of his American counterpart, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, who visited China in April 2013.

China claims nearly the entire 2.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea. Its claims overlap with that of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and  the Philippines.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

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