Political seaquake: Anti-China protests in Vietnam
With the installation of an oil rig in a disputed area of the South China Sea, Beijing triggered massive anti-China protests and riots in Vietnam. Hanoi tried to limit the damage, but things got out of control.
It began with an oil rig
Tensions flared up earlier this month when Beijing moved an oil drilling rig into waters in the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam. Hanoi sent vessels trying to stop Beijing's deployment. Chinese ships responded by firing water cannons.
A 'provocative' move
For many Vietnamese, the installation of the oil rig was an extremely provocative move by Beijing to assert its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Thousands of them took to the streets to let off their anger.
By the end of last week, the initially peaceful street protests turned violent. Thousands of people torched Chinese-owned businesses and factories in Vietnam's industrial parks. Among them were also a number of Taiwanese companies, which the protesters believed were owned by mainland Chinese. Many people died during the violence.
Eastern Sea or South China Sea?
This Vietnamese protester holds a placard during a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on May 13. The message on it reads: "Chinese Communist Party: Leave the Eastern Sea." For Vietnam, the disputed waters are in the east, whereas for China they are in the south. Vietnamese do not like to use the term "South China Sea."
China lays claim on almost the entire South China Sea.
A late move?
After days of rioting and violence, Vietnamese security forces moved to quell the protests on May 18. The authorities arrested several activists and hundreds of protesters. However, in the city of Ho Chi Minh, some people continued to demonstrate against China.
Evacuation by sea
As Hanoi tried to stop the violence and demonstrations, Beijing sent out four ships to evacuate Chinese citizens from Vietnam. The Wuzhishan passenger ship was the first to leave the central Vietnamese port of Vung Ang carrying 989 evacuees.
… and by land
Hundreds of Chinese nationals had already left Vietnam before Beijing started its evacuation campaign. Many of them crossed into Cambodia from the Bavet international checkpoint.
Business as usual?
According to the South China Morning Post newspaper, the land traffic between Vietnam and China is running smoothly despite the conflict.