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Beijing sends evacuation ships to Vietnam

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People drive past barbed-wire barricades at entrance of an industrial park in Binh Duong province, Vietnam Saturday, May 17, 2014, after mobs attacked foreign owned factories following anti-China protests. Vietnam’s prime minister ordered an end Saturday to all “illegal protests” in the country after a week of violent demonstrations against China’s deployment of an oil rig in a disputed section of the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

People drive past barbed-wire barricades at entrance of an industrial park in Binh Duong province, Vietnam Saturday, May 17, 2014, after mobs attacked foreign owned factories following anti-China protests. Vietnam’s prime minister ordered an end Saturday to all “illegal protests” in the country after a week of violent demonstrations against China’s deployment of an oil rig in a disputed section of the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

In this Thursday, May 15, 2014 photo, an officer on board Vietnam Coast Guard 4033 vessel films China Coast Guard 3411 vessel sailing in the waters claimed by both countries in the South China Sea. China’s deployment of an oil rig off Vietnam’s coast has prompted a tense sea standoff and touched off deadly anti-China rioting. The conflict pits two neighbors with very similar governments but whose people bear ill feelings rooted in a rivalry that dates back centuries and has occasionally burst out into armed conflict. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

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BEIJING (AP) — China on Sunday dispatched 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 waters claimed by both countries.

The first ship departed Sunday morning from the southern island of Hainan, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It also said that 16 critically injured Chinese were airlifted from Vietnam early Sunday aboard a chartered medical flight.

More than 3,000 Chinese have already been pulled out from Vietnam following the riots this past week that left two Chinese dead and injured about 100 others, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Vietnam has protested China’s positioning of the oil rig in the South China Sea on May 1 and sent ships to confront China’s vessels, setting off a tense standoff. After allowing anti-China protests last weekend, Vietnam’s authorities quickly clamped down on further demonstrations after the public anger against China boiled over into riots, the most serious to hit Vietnam in years.

Dozens of factories close to southern Ho Chi Minh City were trashed. In central Vietnam, a 1,000-strong mob stormed a steel mill, killing two Chinese workers and wounding hundreds more. Along with the Chinese, hundreds of Taiwanese people have fled the country by land and air.

China’s Foreign Ministry said that officials were arranging to bring back the staff of the Chinese building contractor that was stormed by mobs in Ha Tinh province.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Saturday ordered a stop to anti-China protests.

In the capital, Hanoi, on Sunday, police pushed away a handful of protesters and journalists in front of the Chinese Embassy, where a rally last weekend drew thousands. Security was also tight in Ho Chi Minh City.

The message appears to represent a shift in government policy regarding the anti-China protests. Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party worries that nationalist and dissident groups, which are also demanding basic democratic reforms, might challenge its grip on power.

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Associated Press writer Chris Brummitt in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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