Vietnam Government Cracks Down on Protesters, Pledges to Protect Foreign Investors

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HANOI – After a week of violent anti-Chinese protests throughout the country, Vietnam’s government appears to finally be getting serious about cracking down on the protesters and restoring order to the country.

Over a thousand Vietnamese people have been arrested in relation to the violence, and the government has said that more will be arrested in the coming days.

The protests, which had been raging last week, were sparked mainly by the provocative move by China of locating a large oil rig in disputed waters off of Vietnam’s coast.

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The initial protests, which were made up of thousands of Vietnamese, seemed to have the tacit approval, if not outright support, of the government of Vietnam.  Local workers rampaged through Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean owned factories, in many cases burning and looting the buildings.

However, a planned anti-China protest that was to occur on Sunday outside of the Chinese embassy here in Hanoi was broken up by security forces before it could even begin.  Similar attempted protests across the country met with equally strong reactions.  Thousands of police were on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in order to prevent any further outbreaks of unrest.

In addition, a number of online news sources and social media, such as Facebook, were blocked or otherwise censored by the government.

China reacts

China’s reaction to the protests and violence has been growing in its intensity.  The country has announced plans to evacuate 3,000 Chinese nationals by boat from Vietnam.  Hundreds more Chinese have already left Vietnam by air or have crossed by land into neighboring countries such as Cambodia.

Beijing has also warned other Chinese to avoid traveling to Vietnam.  Additionally, China will put on hold a number of planned bilateral exchanges between the two countries.

A spokesman from China’s Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei, was quoted as saying that the recent violence had “damaged the atmosphere and conditions for exchanges and cooperation between China and Vietnam.”

Vietnam’s leaders speak out

In the wake of the violence and the growing fear of foreign businesses that are located within the country, a number of Vietnam’s government officials have also appealed for calm and have assured foreigners of their safety within the country.  In a clear change in attitude towards the participants of the riots, the government has begun referring to the violent protesters as “extremists.”

Lt. Gen. Hoang Kong Tu, Vietnam’s top security official has publicly vowed to protect all foreign investments and citizens within the country.

Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh has stated that Vietnam is committed to protecting foreign investors.  The minister also pushed for stronger actions to be taken in order to allow for the resumption of normal business activities in industrial parks throughout the country.

In a meeting with foreign businesses, HCMC Chairman Le Hoang Quan sought to reassure foreign investors by stating that “We regret the incidents in recent days which were caused by some extremists who violated the law, affecting Vietnam’s image in the eyes of foreign investors. These were just spontaneous acts of some bad people. In nature, Vietnamese people are very respectful and friendly to foreigners.” He added that the city’s authorities had been tasked with ensuring the safety of foreigners.

Chairman Quan also committed the government to assisting companies that had suffered damages and economic losses as a result of the protests, as well as saying that the government would help rebuild the damaged buildings and offer tax relief.

In Binh Duong province, Tran Van Nam, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee, assured foreign companies that the provincial authorities would “leave no stone unturned to protect foreign investors and their assets.”

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has also condemned the recent violence and has pledged to help support foreign workers and businesses in the country.

In recent years, Vietnam has been an increasingly attractive destination for foreign companies who are drawn by the country’s low wages and stable government. Hanoi is eager to see this trend continue and that its reputation not be further damaged from these events and that foreign investors continue to flock to the nation.

Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email vietnam@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com.

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