Taipei, May 15 - Taiwan's government has begun to evacuate thousands of its citizens in Vietnam following anti-China protests there that have left two Taiwanese wounded and caused huge losses to hundreds of Taiwanese companies, government officials here said.

Hundreds of Taiwanese are under police protection, some are hiding in their companies of which a dozen have been destroyed or looted, causing billion-dollar losses and plans to relocate, Tsai Wan-chen, president of the Taiwanese Businessmen Association in Binh Duong, told TV channel TVBS.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou Thursday announced the evacuation of Taiwanese citizens in Vietnam and ordered planes to be sent to speed up their repatriation as many of them do not have access to their homes nor travel documents.

Taiwanese industrialists hope to evacuate their families even as a majority of them plan to remain in Vietnam till the situation permits them to reopen their businesses or prepare the withdrawal of their investments in the country.

According to the ministry of finance, Vietnam has been Taiwan's main investment destination in the last 10 years and one of the main sources of foreign labour and wives for the Taiwanese.

This is one of the reasons why the attacks on Taiwanese citizens and properties comes as a big surprise.

Taiwan's foreign ministry has sent 20,000 posters saying I am Taiwanese and I come from Taiwan to avoid confusion of Taiwanese companies with Chinese ones during the protests.

The protests broke out when a Chinese oil platform was moved to waters near the Paracel islands, an area under dispute between Vietnam and China.

These protests, that have been more intense in the provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai where there are around 1,500 Taiwanese factories, reached a head Tuesday.

Taiwanese companies have invested $27,300 million in 2,301 projects in Vietnam between 1998 and March this year.

This, according to official data, makes Taiwan the fourth largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with more than 10,000 Taiwanese industrialists there.



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