How a Chinese businessman in Hai Phong escaped riots

Rioters in Zhao Jianhua’s factory Photo: Zhao Jianhua

"I hid myself upstairs. It was my Vietnamese employees that protected me (from anti-China rioters)," said Zhao Jianhua, a Chinese owner of a factory in Hai Phong, an affluent city in northern Vietnam, describing May 14 as the most horrific day he has ever lived through since he established his plant eight years ago.

The anti-China riots, which first erupted in Ho Chi Minh City, a southern city in Vietnam, had spilled over to Hai Phong at noon when Mr. Zhao received a phone call, in which the deputy director of the Hai Phong branch of the Business Association of China in Vietnam exhorted the Chinese entrepreneur to shut down his plant temporarily as the Vietnamese rioters were looting Chinese-owned factories.

Having realized the seriousness of the situation, Mr. Zhao convened an emergency meeting where he and some Chinese businessmen from the Hai Phong DoSon Industrial Zone discussed ways of seeking asylum and deployment of policemen to guard their factories. At the meeting, some businessmen objected to Mr. Zhao's proposal, saying that they have come through several protests and strikes over the years and that the current situation was not as serious as thought.

After the meeting, Mr. Zhao decided to give his Vietnamese employees a holiday and to stay away from the trouble with his Chinese staff. But it was too late because his factory was already under siege by more than 500 rioters.

In the nick of time, Mr. Zhao led his Chinese colleagues to hide in a storeroom on the second floor of the factory building, leaving more than 200 employees in the yard where they tried to prevent the rioters from entering the factory.

"Where are the Chinese?" a leader of the rioters shouted.

"They (the Chinese people) have fled. There are only Vietnamese here. Don't you want to beat us?" a Vietnamese worker named Ahua replied loudly.

Cajoled by Ahua, the rioters just walked around the factory and left away.

In order to express his gratitude, Mr. Zhao rewarded Ahua with 5 million Vietnamese Dong, equal to approximately one and a half month's salary.

After the rioters left the factory, Mr. Zhao fled from the Hai Phong DoSon Industrial Zone and returned back at midnight when he announced a production halt starting from May 15. He also hired three local policemen to guard his factory for 6 million Vietnamese Dong.

In the morning of May 15, Mr. Zhao assigned two Chinese employees to be stationed at a bridge located 10 kilometers off the Hai Phong DoSon Industrial Zone, which is the only path leading to the industrial zone.

"At that time, I heard that some Chinese were beaten to death and some Chinese factories were looted in southern Vietnam. I dare not struggle against the rioters, nor do I dare leave Vietnam, because all my personal property is here," said Zhao.

Fortunately, the calamity that afflicted southern Vietnam did not happen in Hai Phong as local police dispelled the rioters on the weekend.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)

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