HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Several thousand Vietnamese workers protested at Chinese-owned factories on Tuesday, vandalizing some of them, as anger flared at Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam, a factory executive and media accounts said.
Over the weekend, Vietnam's authoritarian government gave rare sanction to street protests against China as way of amplifying its own anger at Beijing. But the protests now appear to be spreading, taking on a violent tinge and directly targeting foreign investment.
An executive at one industrial park said the protests began Monday night and by Tuesday had hit four parks which are home to Chinese and other foreign-owned businesses. He said some factories that refused to stop work were vandalized.
Police were present on Tuesday morning, but the protests were continuing, he said. He didn't give his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Photos circulating online showed crowds of people pushing over fences at one industrial park and broken windows at a factory
Vietnam reacted angrily to the arrival of the deep sea oil rig on May 1 close to the Paracel Islands, which are controlled by China but claimed by Hanoi. It has sent a flotilla of vessels to try and disrupt rig, some of which have clashed with Chinese ships sent to protect the oil rig.
The standoff underlines China's intention to aggressively pursue its territorial claims in the South China Sea despite complaints from smaller nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which also claim parts of the waters. The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, has called the latest Chinese action "provocative."