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updated: 5/17/2014 9:43 PM

Beijing sends evacuation ships to Vietnam

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  • An officer on board Vietnam Coast Guard 4033 vessel films China Coast Guard 3411 vessel Thursday sailing in the waters claimed by both countries in the South China Sea.

      An officer on board Vietnam Coast Guard 4033 vessel films China Coast Guard 3411 vessel Thursday sailing in the waters claimed by both countries in the South China Sea.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

BEIJING -- China is sending five ships to Vietnam to speed up the evacuation of its citizens following deadly anti-Chinese riots over Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in disputed waters.

The official Xinhua News Agency says that the first ship departed Sunday morning from the southern island of Hainan. China's Foreign Ministry says more than 3,000 Chinese have already been evacuated from Vietnam following the riots this past week that left two Chinese dead and injured about 100 others.

Vietnam ordered a stop to anti-China protests and in the capital, Hanoi, on Sunday police pushed away a handful of protesters and journalists in front of the Chinese Embassy.

Vietnam has protested China's positioning of the oil rig in the South China Sea and has sent ships to confront China's vessels.

Nationalist and dissident groups, which are also demanding basic democratic reforms that challenge Vietnam's Communist Party, have called for large protests today in front of the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam.

The public mood in Vietnam is anti-Beijing, and breaking up the rallies might reinforce dissident claims that the government is kowtowing to China. In the past, authorities have allowed small anti-China protests to take place for a limited period, and harassed journalists covering them.

The public unrest this past week was the most serious to hit Vietnam in years.

Dozens of factories close to Ho Chi Minh City were trashed following peaceful anti-China protests by workers. In central Vietnam, a 1,000-strong mob stormed a steel mill, killing one Chinese worker and wounding hundreds more. Hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese people have fled the country by land and air.

There has been no reported violence or major demonstrations since Thursday.

Earlier this month, Vietnam's government sent a flotilla to confront Chinese vessels protecting the oil rig, setting off a tense standoff. The government also has whipped up patriotic fervor via state media, undoubtedly swelling the numbers of protesters, while also trying to rally international support for its cause. The streets protests last weekend were the largest in years in Vietnam.

The government has condemned the violence, which it said was carried out by "extremists."

In a phone conversation Saturday with his Vietnamese counterpart, Chinese Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun urged Vietnam to protect Chinese companies and nationals, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website. Guo also demanded that Vietnam severely punish those involved in the violence.

In 2011, Chinese vessels cut a supply cable to a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel in the South China Sea, angering Vietnam's government. Vietnam allowed protests for a while before gradually cracking down on them after they became a forum for anti-government activists.

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