China-Vietnam dispute: China sends in five ships to evacuate nationals

At least two people were killed during violent anti-China protests in Vietnam last week, following a stand-off over disputed territories

China is sending five ships to bring home more of its nationals from Vietnam, following deadly anti-China protests last week.

Beijing has already evacuated more than 3,000 people after a wave of attacks on Chinese workers and Chinese-owned businesses, state-run media reported.

Sixteen critically injured Chinese nationals were evacuated from Vietnam early on Sunday aboard a chartered medical flight arranged by the Chinese government, the foreign ministry said in a separate statement.

The move came as Vietnam sent police into major cities to avert further protests, which have left at least two people dead and more than a hundred injured.

Violence erupted after Chinese state energy firm CNOOC deployed dozens of ships two weeks ago and towed a $1 billion (£59.5 million) oil rig to a location 240 kilometres (150 miles) off Vietnam's coast in the disputed South China Sea.

It was one of the most assertive moves China has made in seas believed to be endowed with billions of barrels worth of oil.

In a rare move, protests in hundreds of Vietnam’s cities were permitted last week, but initially peaceful marches in two southern industrialised provinces escalated into violence and destruction, with arson and looting of Chinese-owned factors, as well as Taiwanese businesses mistaken for being Chinese.

In central Ha Tinh province fighting broke out between Vietnamese and Chinese workers on Wednesday, leaving two dead and 140 wounded, the government said.

China's foreign ministry also put the casualties at two dead and 100 injured, Xinhua said.

But a doctor and an eyewitness said they saw between 13 and 21 dead bodies, which were mostly Chinese.

The violence has angered China, which has demanded swift action against the perpetrators and for Vietnam to do more to protect Chinese nationals and businesses.

Vietnam’s communist rulers had vowed to thwart any repeat of the violence seen last week in three provinces in the south and central of the country. 

Several arrests were made in the capital Hanoi and commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City within minutes of groups attempting to start protests, according to witnesses.

A text message was sent to Vietnamese mobile phone users on Saturday saying Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had ordered the security forces to prevent illegal acts. A top police investigator rejected assertions that the authorities remained aloof when the rioting erupted.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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