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May 29, 2017

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China evacuates 3,000 nationals from Vietnam over unrest

BEIJING - China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its nationals from Vietnam following a wave of deadly anti-Chinese violence, state media said Sunday, as Vietnamese authorities imposed heavy security to thwart any further unrest.

Xinhua news agency said the evacuees included 16 Chinese who were "critically injured" last week in violence triggered by Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters.

The chaos marked the worst anti-China unrest in Vietnam in decades.

Those victims left on a chartered medical flight, and China also was dispatching five ships to Vietnam to pluck more nationals to safety after vocal Vietnamese NGOs issued a call for fresh, but peaceful, protests around the country on Sunday against China's "aggression".

That call appeared to have fizzled, at least in Hanoi, where authorities deployed heavy security around the Chinese embassy and other suspected protest sites.

AFP could not immediately confirm whether any anti-China actions occurred elsewhere in the country, but the government on Saturday had ordered authorities nationwide to ramp up security to nip any protests in the bud.

China's positioning of the oil rig in waters claimed by both sides has ignited long-simmering enmity between the two quarrelsome communist neighbours, who have fought territorial skirmishes in the past.

Worker demonstrations spread to 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces in the last week, according to the Vietnamese government, with enraged mobs torching foreign-owned factories and enterprises linked to China or which employed Chinese personnel.

More than 400 enterprises were hit, Vietnam's government has said.

The government has in the past occasionally allowed protesters to vent anger at the country's giant neighbour for domestic political gain.

Vietnam in damage control

But developing Vietnam depends heavily on foreign investment, and the anti-China violence Tuesday and Wednesday has bruised the country's business image and sent the government scrambling to limit the damage.

"We will not allow any acts targeting foreign investors, businesses or individuals, to ensure that the regrettable incidents will not be repeated," Dang Minh Khoi, assistant to Vietnam's foreign minister, told reporters in a briefing Saturday.

"We ask countries to continue to encourage their investors and citizens to rest assured on doing business in Vietnam."

Officials told the briefing that the violence had left two Chinese nationals dead and 140 injured. More than 300 suspected perpetrators were being prosecuted, they said.

More than 3,000 Chinese nationals had been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, Xinhua reported early Sunday.

China's foreign ministry also advised its nationals against travelling to Vietnam for now, following what it called the "explosion of violence".

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