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Things are back to normal for the shoe industry in Vietnam after mobs of protestors recently set fire to a number of foreign owned shoe factories in response to Chinese oil drilling in parts of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam.
Yue Yuen, the Taiwanese owned sports footwear manufacturer which make shoes for Adidas, Nike and Reebok, announced the closure of three factories near Ho Chi Minh City as a precautionary measure. The attacks on Taiwanese owned businesses have been blamed on the inability of the protestors to tell the difference between the Chinese and Taiwanese people. As part of a concerted effort to distinguish themselves from Chinese owned businesses, Taiwanese factories have shown support for Vietnam by hanging banners with pro-Vietnamese slogans. "This is not a Chinese company – we oppose China's placement of the oil rig", says a banner at one still-smouldering Taiwanese shoe factory.
In a more sinister incident, over 700 workers at the Hong Fu Vietnam Footwear Co. factory in Thanh Hoa city were taken ill after reportedly drinking poisoned water from dispensers at the factory. There were no deaths or serious injuries but, after an investigation, local police confirmed that mass poisoning was the cause of the workers’ illness.
The disruption in production due to the violence is a major problem for multinationals who rely on countries like Vietnam for cheaper production of footwear. There has already been a strike by over 40,000 workers at Yue Yuen last month which severely restricted production.
Now that the protests have died down the industry is now back up to full-speed with production back to normal.