"--IANS/EFE"
Ho Chi Minh City, May 15 - At least one Chinese worker was killed and 90 others were injured in violent protests against China during which many factories were set on fire in south Vietnam, diplomatic sources here said Thursday.

The violence in Vietnam erupted after China made renewed territorial claims over the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam insists are part of the country. However, in the on-going protests Taiwanese nationals, mistaken as Chinese, too have been targetted.

Taiwan's Ambassador Huang Chih-peng said many Taiwanese firms have been affected in the violence that began Wednesday afternoon and continued till Thursday morning.

At least 15 buildings were burnt and hundreds of companies suffered damage to their property, according to a preliminary report by local autorities.

On Wednesday, around 19,000 people demonstrated in an industrial area in the Binh Duong province in the south of the country.

Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean textile and footwear industries are located in this area.

Some of the protestors incited others to pull down the fences and attack the industrial buildings, leading to thefts, arson, and assaults on security guards, Tran Van Nam, the vice chairman of Binh Duong province, told the portal VNExpress.

The Vietnamese police said that more than 700 people have been arrested.

Vietnamese protestors were attacking and destroying companies with signs in Chinese without distinguishing between Taiwanese and Chinese companies, Taiwan's foreign ministry said in Taipei.

Taiwan has begun to evacuate thousands of its citizens, many of whom are under police protection with no access to their homes or travel documents.

Taiwan warned Vietnam that the attacks could negatively affect bilateral relations and investments in that country.

The protests erupted after a Chinese ship collided with a Vietnamese vessel that tried to prevent the installation of an oil rig of the Chinese national company CNOOC close to the Paracel Islands.

The oil rig was originally located in waters south of Hong Kong but was moved close to Paracel, which the Chinese call Xisha, May 2. Hanoi termed the action illegal.

On May 3, China Maritime Safety Administration announced a ban on sailing to within one nautical mile - of the oil platform, a distance that it increased to three nautical miles - May 5.

China has had de facto control of the Paracel Islands since a naval skirmish with Vietnam in 1974, in which 53 Vietnamese and 18 Chinese officers died.

There is growing tension between China and its neighbouring countries, especially Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, over the islands and waters of the South and East China Seas.

These areas are rich in fishing as well as energy resources of oil and natural gas that are yet to be exploited.

--IANS/EFE

ab/vt/dg


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