Officials in the north-central province of Ha Tinh have once again had to order Taiwanese corporation Formosa to stop building a shrine at a local economic zone where anti-China riots broke out last May.
The unlicensed construction has ceased as of Friday, but is basically complete with a sloped brick roof and concrete walls.
There is still some scaffolding around the 18-square meter shrine, which has been enclosed by an iron net since Saturday, according to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Bricks and sand remain around the site and some workers’ helmets hang on its walls.
Ho Anh Tuan, chief manager of the Vung Ang Economic Zone, told news website VnExpress that Hung Nghiep Formosa, a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Group, has been told to stop the construction.
Le Van Thong, deputy director of the Ha Tinh Department of Construction, told Tuoi Tre that the zone’s managers are responsible for allowing the construction to go on for so long.
Ha Tinh Party officials had ordered a halt even in its early stages last July following public outcry over approval for the “unprecedented” request of a shrine after anti-China riots left three Chinese workers dead and 149 others, both Chinese and Vietnamese, injured on May 14.
China’s deployment of a US$1-billion oil rig in Vietnamese waters on May 2 triggered protests that erupted into violence in central and southern Vietnam two weeks later.
Taiwanese businesses, mistaken for being Chinese, suffered most. Taipei claims at least 200 factories were looted or burned down in the riots. Around 3,000 Chinese workers subsequently fled Vietnam.
In Vietnamese and Chinese culture, it is believed that people who are killed far from home, especially if violently, will wander and remain hungry since their spirits cannot find their way back home to enjoy the regular offerings of food and others laid out on family altars.
Nguyen Canh Thuy, deputy director of Ha Tinh’s culture department, said the purported reason for the shrine, “consoling in part the soul of local people and [Formosa’s] workers,” is not convincing.
People in the neighborhood have no need for the shrine since they already have one, he said.
Formosa has a 70-year lease to build a steel complex in the industrial zone.
Afterwards, its civil structures can be razed easily, but bringing down a spiritual one could cause issues, Thuy said.
Nguuyen Thanh Binh, chief of the Ha Tinh Party unit, was quoted by news website VietNamNet Sunday that the province would ask Formosa to demolish the shrine.
"Such construction was not allowed," Binh was quoted by VietNamNet as saying.
Lawmakers have strongly rejected the shrine idea.
Duong Trung Quoc, a National Assembly member, said: “There are Chinese workers here. We respect their beliefs, but we don’t necessarily have to allow shrines and temples.”
He told Tuoi Tre that the Chinese government would not allow such structures if Vietnamese guest workers make a request.
“Vietnamese have their own pagodas in other countries, but they are permanent communities. Here we only have temporary Chinese workers.”