Environmental and social activists in Vietnam are calling for protests May 1 after a massive fish-kill, and the government’s failure to act against industrial giant Formosa Plastics Group.
While the Vietnam government claimed Wednesday that they have no proof the environmental disaster was linked to the Formosa Group’s steel mill in Ha Tinh Province, they have called for the company to dig up an illegal pipeline that citizens believe discharged toxic chemicals into the ocean. The government has also sent public security police to defend the factory in case of riots.
A petition on the White House website has received over 100, 000 signatures calling for President Obama to raise the issue on his visit to Vietnam next month. The petition also calls for an independent environmental impact assessment on the Formosa Group’s newly constructed steel mill in Ha Tinh Province.
Media and citizens are blaming the steel mill for the massive fish kill while the company, and Vietnam’s government are denying a link to the incident.
Reports of dead fish emerged in early April but the government did not respond until Monday April 25, the same day a Formosa Group executive made statements that incensed Vietnamese citizens.
“(You) need to choose whether to catch fish and shrimp or to build a state-of-the-art steel mill,” Chou Chun-fan said in a television interview.
Vietnamese netizens are posting on social media using the hashtag #toichonca, which means: “I choose fish”.
Activists are tying the fishkill with the greater issue of Chinese foreign investment in Vietnam and China’s claim over almost all of the South China Sea. The Vietnamese do not make a clear distinction between Taiwan and China. In May 2014, anti-Chinese rioters targeted the Formosa Group’s steel mill resulting in the death of a Chinese worker and almost 150 people injured.
In a phone conference Wednesday, the activists said that 90 percent of the industrial projects in Vietnam in recent years are operated by the Chinese or depend on investment from China. They are demanding that the politburo and the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam prosecute Formosa, review all Chinese projects in Vietnam and send all Chinese workers home.
“All Chinese projects in Vietnam are bad,” said one activist. “Chinese workers took our jobs; built their villages on our land; invaded our country. They intend to harm our country, but the politburo and the communist party still listen to them and subjugate Vietnam to their demands.”
Media reports in Taiwan say the Vietnam government has sent ‘large numbers’ of security personnel to the steel mill to protect workers and management in case of a repeat of events in May 2014. United Daily News Taiwan showed a reader-submitted photograph of police in riot gear lined up in front of the gate of the controversial steel mill.