76 arrested after deadly mass brawl in central Vietnam

By Khanh Hoan - Nguyen Dung, Thanh Nien News

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People in Vietnam's Ha Tinh Province in a peaceful demonstration against a Chinese oil rig placed in Vietnamese waters Wednesday morning. In the afternoon a deadly clash between Chinese and Vietnamese workers left one dead and 149 others hurt. PHOTO: NGUYEN DUNG
Seventy-six Vietnamese people have been arrested in a police investigation in a violent brawl at a Taiwanese steel mill in central Vietnam that left a Chinese worker dead and 149 other people injured on Wednesday.
The riot occured in the afternoon at a steel mill project owned by Taiwanese Formosa Plastics Group in Ha Tinh Province, around 500 kilometers from Hanoi. It followed morning peaceful protests against a Chinese oil rig positioned illegally in Vietnamese territorial waters.
Ha Tinh officials told a press briefing Thursday afternoon the violence began when a group of Vietnamese workers and another group of Chinese workers got involved in a scuffle at a blast furnace construction site of the Formosa mill.
Members of the two groups had been hostile to each other before, they said.
The fight broke out at 4:30 p.m. amid anti-China protests by other workers at the gate of the mill, the officials said.
Witnesses told police they heard someone among the protesters shouting that a Vietnamese worker was "beaten to death" in the construction site. That prompted about 5,000 Vietnamese and 1,000 Chinese workers to join in the violent mass brawl.
About 150 people, both Chinese and Vietnamese, were injured in the clashes. They were rushed to nearby hospitals but one Chinese national died on the way, the officials said.
The rioters also burnt three temporary dwellings for workers at the construction site. Some stole building materials like iron and steel, electric wires, air conditioners and computers.
The situation was brought under control at 8 p.m. Since Thursday morning, security has been tightened at Vung Ang Economic Zone where many Chinese and Taiwanese companies, including Formosa, operate.
Nguyen Thanh Liem, deputy chief of police in Ha Tinh Province, said the arrested people would be investigated for causing disorder and looting.
Authorities are coordinating with Formosa  to access damage.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Thursday while peaceful protests against China’s oil rig movement into Vietnamese waters was "the correct thing” and showed patriotism; some people violated laws, damaging the property of foreign-invested firms.
He described the situation as “serious” and ordered relevant agencies to strictly punish the inciters.
Bui Quang Vinh, Minister of Planning and Investment, said the violent incidents have tarnished “the image of our country investment climate, which we have built up painstakingly more than 20 years with many good records.”
This week’s disturbances followed peaceful demonstrations against the Chinese oil rig on May 11 in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang.
By Wednesday, police in the southern province of Binh Duong had arrested 599 people for inciting and participating in rampages that caused great damages to businesses in industrial areas on May 13-14.
As many as 15 factories in Binh Duong had their warehouses set ablaze, which caused billions of dong in losses and left thousands of workers at risk of losing their jobs. Thugs also set 10 business cars on fire.
In adjacent Dong Nai Province, police said they have arrested about 100 hooligans. They said they had to fire tear gas to push back rioting demonstrators.
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