Death reported, 400 Taiwan-run plants shut down in Vietnam
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-15 05:54 PM
Executives of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) now say that one Chinese employee at the firm’s steel plant in Ha Tinh Province in central Vietnam has been stabbed to death in an altercation with local workers and nearly a hundred other Chinese have been injured. The incident marks a serious escalation in violence against Taiwanese-invested operations in Vietnam, caught in the middle of increasingly stressful relations between China and Vietnam over territorial rights claims in the South China Sea. FPG, which has poured some US$11.5 billion into its various operations in Vietnam, says it is taking a long look at threats to its personnel and property in the country.

Located in the Vung An Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province, the FPG Steel Mill is known as the largest iron and steel plant in Southeast Asia, Reports coming out of the plant said that Tuesday afternoon conflicts broke out between more than 2,000 Vietnamese and 2,000 Chinese nationals working in the plant. The Chinese workers were reportedly surrounded, and one Chinese was said to have been stabbed to death.

Vietnamese troops were called to the factory to maintain order, and 800 Taiwanese managers and technicians working at the plant retreated to a dormitory. They are safe for the moment but have been told to pack up a few belongings and be prepared to evacuate if the situation deteriorates any further.

FPG executive Hung Fu-yuan said Wednesday that a mob of about 300 people raided the Taiwanese conglomerate's compound in Dong Nai Province close to Ho Chi Minh City late Tuesday night, damaging property and stealing computers, monitors and TV sets. The cost of damage to the offices has yet to be assessed.

Hung, general manager of the FPG plant, said that the Dong Nai facility generates about NT$20 billion ($660 million) in annual revenue. He said the disruption should have no significant impact on the group's overall performance this year.

"What happened feels like anarchy," Hung told reporters Wednesday. "The Vietnamese government's inability to stop rioters from pillaging foreign companies is raising major concerns, and it may hurt the country's appeal to international investors." He said FPG is currently evaluating whether to suspend further investment in Vietnam. The group is one of the largest Taiwan-based investors in the country.

An FPG spokesman said damage to office equipment is acceptable, but the company is much more concerned about losses from downtime as operations are suspended due to threats of more violence. With an annual turnover of NT$25 billion, a work stoppage means the loss of some NT$70 million a day until production lines can be started up again. In Vietnam, Hong declined to speculate on when the plant might resume operation, saying it depends entirely on local conditions.

Hung noted that he "deeply regrets" the Vietnamese government’s unwillingness or inability to rein in gangs that have targeted any facility with signage in Chinese and even some with other languages that have been misconstrued as Chinese. He notes that while his company is in the midst of a US$500 million (NT$15 billion) expansion of its facilities, it could call a halt to the whole project if the violence continues.

Offices at Far Eastern’s new textiles plant were also ransacked by an invading mob Tuesday. A China Steel plant has stopped production at a cost of tens of millions of NT dollars a day, and shutdowns are also reported by Cheng Shin Rubber, Kenda, the KMC bicycle chain factory, and motorcycle assembly plants run by Kwangyang and Sanyang.

Meanwhile private carriers and government agencies are working to make sure anyone seeking to leave Vietnam will be able to depart. China Airlines and Uni-Air have added four flights on two routes daily to Taiwan, and several airlines have substituted larger aircraft in existing schedules. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says its personnel in Vietnam will be working overtime to help process those who want to leave the country.

Meanwhile, Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Rong-chun pointed out that currently 11 Taiwanese factories are known to have been set on fire and some 400 factories have been forced to shut down.

Taiwanese companies affected by the riots include 15 engaged in producing footwear, 10 in the textile and garment industry, seven in the furniture industry, 14 producing bicycle components, three printing and packaging companies, four electrical products makers and companies in 20 other categories of operations.

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