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September 23, 2017

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Companies reeling from anti-China demonstrations

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese workers told of their fear as they hid from Vietnamese rioters who ravaged hundreds of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam during violent demonstrations against China this week, burning several to the ground.

The atmosphere remained tense in the southern provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai Friday, where demonstrators looted and torched the factories in protest at Beijing's deployment of an oil drilling rig in disputed South China Sea waters.

A local Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce official told AFP Friday that more than 500 factories were attacked in Binh Duong alone in the riots earlier in the week.

China has accused Hanoi of "connivance" with protesters.

Leading Taiwanese industrial group Formosa Plastics said Thursday that Vietnamese workers had "provoked and attacked" Chinese employees at their steel mill in central Ha Tinh province, where one Chinese worker was killed and at least 149 injured in the unrest.

A contractor for the company said colleagues had told him that they witnessed dozens of Chinese workers being dragged from a bus and beaten.

"I hid in the dorm during the riots and later sneaked out the steel plant and drove to Hanoi to take the plane home," said the contractor, Lee Chun-ye, who returned to Taipei on Thursday.

"I was really nervous whenever the traffic slowed down as I was worried that Vietnamese people would attack me in my car," he said.

A Taiwanese businessman who gave his family name as Chen said some 40 Taiwanese and Chinese managers at his furniture plant in Binh Doung province managed to escape with the help of a Vietnamese supplier, who hid them in his factory.

"I think the Vietnamese authorities tacitly consented to the rioters as long as they didn't kill anybody," Chen said from the airport in Taipei.

"We were very scared as police didn't turn up in time to help us."

The Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam said they were advising owners to temporarily close their factories next week to keep workers safe amid fears of fresh violence.

"There is no new violence for the moment but we are worried about the upcoming rallies on May 18," said Yang Yu-feng, honorary chairwoman of the body. "We have advised Taiwanese companies to ... close their factories on that day."

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