BEIJING - Thousands of Chinese nationals are awaiting evacuation from riot-hit Vietnam, state-run media said Monday, as Hanoi moved to stifle fresh protests over a territorial dispute between the two countries.
More than 3,000 Chinese have already returned home from Vietnam, reports said at the weekend, and according to the Global Times newspaper another 4,000 were to be evacuated.
Two Chinese vessels arrived in Vietnam's Ha Tinh province on Monday morning and will sail back to China in the evening, the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily said on a verified Twitter account.
China said on Sunday it was dispatching five ships to bring home nationals.
Relations between the Communist neighbours have plummeted following China's move earlier this month to send a deep-water drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea.
Two Chinese nationals were killed and about 140 injured when enraged mobs torched or otherwise damaged hundreds of foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam last week.
Vietnamese authorities responded on Sunday by dispatching hundreds of security personnel to quell the violence, and more than 300 suspected perpetrators are being prosecuted, officials said.
Blogs by civil society groups involved in the call for protests said activists were detained in several areas around the country or prevented from leaving their homes.
China's foreign ministry, meanwhile, announced Sunday that it has suspended some bilateral exchange programmes and issued a new appeal for Chinese citizens to avoid travelling to Vietnam.
"China has raised the level of its travel warning for Chinese citizens, advising them not to go to Vietnam for the time being and has suspended some of bilateral exchange plans," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.
"China will consider taking further steps depending on how the situation plays out."