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Riots in Vietnam leave 1 Chinese dead, 141 injured

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Firefighters stand across from the main entrance of Tan Than Industries as the Taiwanese bicycle factory burns, in Di An Town, Binh Duong province, Vietnam, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam following a large protest by workers against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Nesmith)

Firefighters stand across from the main entrance of Tan Than Industries as the Taiwanese bicycle factory burns, in Di An Town, Binh Duong province, Vietnam, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam following a large protest by workers against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Nesmith)

Protesters stand on the corner of a street in Quan Doan 4, Binh Duong province, near Song Than 2 Industrial Park in Vietnam, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam following a large protest by workers against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday. The unrest at industrial parks near Ho Chi Minh City is the most serious outbreak of public disorder in the tightly controlled country in years. (AP Photo/Jeff Nesmith)

Protesters raise Taiwanese flags and placards marching to Vietnam’s consulate in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 15, 2014, to protest anti-China unrest in Vietnam. Mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam following a large protest by workers against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday. The Chinese words in the photo read ” Defend Paracel Islands ” and ” Condemn Anti-China” .(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Protesters raise Taiwanese flags and placards marching to Vietnam’s consulate in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 15, 2014, to protest anti-China unrest in Vietnam. Mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam following a large protest by workers against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday. The Chinese words on banners read ” Defend Paracel Islands ” and ” Condemn Anti-China” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A 1,000-strong mob stormed a Taiwanese steel mill in Vietnam and hunted down Chinese workers, killing one, attacking scores more and then setting the complex alight, Taiwanese and Vietnamese authorities said Thursday, further inflaming tensions between Hanoi and Beijing as they square off against each other in the disputed South China Sea.

It was the first deadly incident in a wave of anti-China protests triggered by Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig in the long-disputed seas on May 1. Vietnam is angrily demanding that China remove the rig and has sent ships to confront it and a flotilla of Chinese escort ships, triggering fears of possible conflict.

Taiwanese companies, many of which employ Chinese nationals, have borne the brunt of the protests and violence, which is posing a challenge to the authoritarian government, which prides itself on maintaining peace and security. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said peaceful protests over the last few days were “legitimate,” but that anyone involved in violence should be punished severely.

Nervous Chinese expatriates were fleeing by land and air. Cambodian immigration police said 600 Chinese crossed into Cambodia over the land border in southern Vietnam on Wednesday, and that others were arriving Thursday. Taiwan’s China Airlines was adding two additional charter flights from southern Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was “greatly shocked and concerned.”

“We urge the Vietnamese government to earnestly assume responsibility, get to the bottom of the incident, punish the perpetrators harshly, and pay compensation,” Hua said.

The riot took place at a mill in Ha Tinh province in central Vietnam, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of Hanoi. It followed an anti-China protest by workers at the complex, operated by the conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group, one of the biggest foreign investors in Vietnam, according to Taiwan’s top representative in the country, Huang Chih-peng, and police.

Huang, who spoke to a member of the management team at the mill, said rioters lit fires at several buildings and hunted down the Chinese workers, but did not target the Taiwanese management. He said the head of the provincial government and its security chief were at the mill during the riot but did not “order tough enough action.”

He said he was told one Chinese citizen was killed in the riot and around 90 others were injured. Ha Tinh’s deputy police chief, Bui Dinh Quang, said the situation was “stable” on Thursday and that none of the injured, which he put at 141, had life-threatening injuries.

Anti-Chinese sentiment is never far from the surface in Vietnam, but has surged since Beijing deployed the massive deep sea oil rig in disputed waters about 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the Vietnamese coast, close to the Paracel Islands. The government protested the move as a violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and sent a flotilla of boats, which continue to bump and collide with Chinese vessels guarding the rig. The U.S. has also described China’s actions as “provocative.”

In Washington, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said after a meeting Thursday with his Chinese counterpart that in a world where information moves so fast, “issues afloat quickly become issues ashore as we’ve seen today in Vietnam.”

People’s Liberation Army’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fang Fenghui blamed Vietnam for the off-shore standoff, asserting that China was operating in its own territorial waters. He vowed China would continue its oil drilling and would not allow Vietnam to disrupt it.

Earlier this week, mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories at industrial parks in southern Vietnam near Ho Chi Minh City. They believed they were Chinese-run, but many were actually Taiwanese or South Korean. Authorities said

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