China's MCC says four staff killed in Vietnam unrest, most employees evacuated

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Metallurgical Corp of China Ltd (MCC) said on Wednesday four of its employees working on a construction project in Vietnam were killed and 126 injured during anti-China protests last week over a disputed area in the South China Sea.

The four MCC workers killed were double the number of fatalities previously confirmed by the Vietnamese and Chinese governments.

Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to factories and stormed industrial zones in the south to protest against Chinese oil drilling in a part of the sea claimed by Hanoi.

MCC said protesters smashed, looted and burned foreign enterprises in Vietnam on May 14, including the construction site of Formosa Plastics’ Ha Tinh Steel Plant, where some of its employees were working.

Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group, one of the companies worst affected by the anti-China riots, told Reuters on Monday that work at its steel facility in central Vietnam had partially resumed and it hoped all operations would return to normal as soon as possible.

“The lives and safety of the company’s 3,565 employees were under severe harm and threat,” the Chinese engineering contractor said.

The first group of people injured at the Ha Tinh project, totaling 307 Chinese, had been evacuated to Chengdu in China’s Sichhuan province on Sunday and were in hospital, it said.

A second batch of workers, totaling 3,567, were evacuated to Haikou port in Hainan province.

Most of the Chinese employees from the steel project in Ha Tinh had returned to China safely, the company said, although a handful stayed behind.

Fighting between Vietnamese and Chinese workers broke out in central Ha Tinh province last Wednesday, killing two people and wounding 140, the government in Hanoi said. China’s foreign ministry also put the casualties at two dead and 100 injured, state news agency Xinhua said.

Most large companies operating in industrial parks hit by anti-China riots in Vietnam have resumed operations, underscoring the irresistible pull of Vietnam as a low-cost manufacturing hub with a relatively skilled workforce.

Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Paul Tait