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Chinese company says 4 workers killed in Vietnam unrest

Chinese nationals disembark from the passenger vessel "Wu Zhishan" upon arrival back following their evacuation from Vietnam, at Xiuying Port in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Photo: Xinhua

A Chinese engineering and construction company said on Tuesday that four of its workers died last week in riots in Vietnam triggered by China's deployment of an oil rig in disputed South China Sea.

In filings with the stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai late Tuesday, state-controlled Metallurgical Corp. of China (MCC) said that 23 other employees were seriously hurt in rioting at a construction project in Vietnam's north-central Ha Tinh province, where the company is contracted to build a steel plant for Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Corp. The incident caused another 103 injuries, it said, without providing details.

The four MCC workers killed were double the number of fatalities previously confirmed by the Vietnamese and Chinese governments, which were not immediately available to confirm the MCC report.

The Chinese company did not identify the victims or their nationalities. It said that DNA testing was being used to identify two of the dead.

Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to factories and stormed industrial zones in the south to protest against Chinese oil drilling in a part of the sea claimed by Hanoi.

MCC said that protesters smashed, looted and burned foreign enterprises in Vietnam on May 14, including the construction site of Formosa Plastics' Ha Tinh Steel Plant, where some of its employees were working.

"The lives and safety of the company's 3,565 employees were under severe harm and threat," the Chinese engineering contractor said.

The first group of people injured at the Ha Tinh project, totaling 307 Chinese, had been evacuated to Chengdu in China's Sichhuan province on Sunday and were in hospital, it said.

A second batch of workers, totaling 3,567, were evacuated to Haikou port in Hainan province.

Most of the Chinese employees from the steel project in Ha Tinh had returned to China safely, the company said, although a handful stayed behind.

China and Vietnam claim overlapping parts of the South China Sea. Their longstanding tensions over the claims erupted May 1 when Beijing deployed a large oil rig close to the Xisha Islands, which are claimed by both countries. Hanoi immediately sent ships to confront the rig. They are now locked in a standoff with Chinese ships protecting the rig, raising fears of a possible clash.

China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its citizens from Vietnam, state media reported Sunday. The Chinese government has also issued an advisory warning against travel to Vietnam and is suspending some diplomatic contacts.

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