Rising tensions between Beijing and Hanoi over China’s unilateral deployment of an oil rig in disputed South China Sea area have led to a series of protests in Vietnam. On May 13, around 13,000 Vietnamese workers staged demonstrations in an industrial park in a province of the south. From there the protests spread throughout the country.
Yesterday, the situation escalated and enraged workers turned violent, damaging and burning foreign companies, among them Taiwanese factories, which were mistaken for Chinese ones.
Two people working for Taiwanese companies were killed, while at least 129 others were injured. Formosa Plastics, which owns a steel mill in the central part of Vietnam and employs a large number of Chinese workers, was vandalised by Vietnamese protesters. One Chinese worker died and 90 were injured. Similar scenes happened elsewhere. According to the Taiwanese government, 10 factories were set on fire, and around 100 were invaded by protesters.
In order to protect Taiwanese nationals, today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued stickers with “I am from Taiwan” written on them in Vietnamese and English. The Taiwanese government hopes that by placing these stickers on the entrance of company buildings Taiwanese business people can protect themselves, their employees and their property from the actions of violent demonstrators.
Legislative Yuan legislator Xue Lingzhi (薛凌質) of the Democratic Progressive Party, however, remarked that Vietnamese students learn in school that Taiwan is a part of China and that therefore the measure might prove ineffective. He demanded the Foreign Ministry issued news sets of stickers with a clearer message: “I am Taiwanese, I am not Chinese”, or “Taiwan is not part of China” (note).
The confusion of Vietnamese workers is not entirely unjustified. The full name of the Ministry being Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (中華民國外交部), the stickers once more prove the schizophrenic ambiguity of Taiwan’s status.