China on Thursday accused the Vietnamese government of “conniving” with rioters who have attacked and torched Chinese factories, killing at least two people, injuring more than a 100 in the worst anti-China violence in the country in decades.

The flare-up which followed days of protests in Vietnam over China deploying an oil rig in contested waters of the South China Sea, has left foreign factories in ruin as mobs ransacked and torched industrial zones, including businesses owned by Taiwan and Singapore, mistaking them for Chinese firms.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said at least two Chinese were killed and more than a hundred hospitalised. One person was found dead in a Taiwan company’s bicycle factory in southern Binh Duong province, more than 1,000 km south of Hanoi. A second person was killed in Ha Tinh province, 300 km south of the Vietnamese capital, in a mob attack on a factory.

A doctor in Ha Tinh told Reuters “up to 21” people were killed in violence, including five Vietnamese workers and 16 others “described as Chinese” with more than a 100 hospitalised.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters the government was still working to verify the number of those killed and injured with some attacks taking place in remote areas.

China has accused the Vietnamese government of organising the protests, seeing it as a response to recent tensions over the deployment of the oil rig in waters off the Paracel Islands, which triggered a stand-off between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels.

Ms. Hua said the “trashing, looting and burning of Chinese companies has everything to do with Vietnam’s connivance with anti-China forces and lawbreakers.” The Chinese government, she added, had lodged “solemn representations” with the Vietnamese envoy in Beijing, while its embassy in Hanoi had issued safety advisories for Chinese citizens and institutions.

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