BEIJING - Beijing expressed "serious concerns" Wednesday over protests in Vietnam that saw more than a dozen factories set on fire by anti-China demonstrators enraged at its deployment of an oil rig in disputed waters.
China made "solemn representations" and asked Vietnam to take all necessary steps to stop and punish the crimes, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing.
"China expresses serious concerns about the incident," Hua said.
The foreign ministry "launched solemn representations with the Vietnamese ambassador to China, urging the Vietnamese side to immediately take effective steps to resolutely stop and punish these crimes, and to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in Vietnam," she added.
China and Vietnam are locked in a longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea over islands and waters which both countries claim.
The tensions were heightened last week when Beijing moved a state-owned, deep-water drilling rig for the first time into waters near the Paracel islands, a move Hanoi has condemned as "illegal".
There have been repeated skirmishes near the oil rig in recent days involving vessels from the two countries, with collisions and the use of water cannon.
There has also been a rare outburst of public unrest in Vietnam, where authorities said 500 rioters have been arrested in connection with the anti-China protests.
Beijing has accused Hanoi of being the provocateur at sea, saying Vietnamese vessels were the first to begin ramming while Chinese ships merely responded as necessary while exercising restraint.
Hua said Vietnamese ships rammed Chinese vessels 169 times on Tuesday, adding that Hanoi brought journalists on board to try to publicise its "false" portrayal of the situation.
"Within one day the Vietnamese side rammed Chinese vessels as many as 169 times, in coordination with its organising journalists to go to the site to do reporting," Hua said.
"This was all done for show, in an attempt to present a false picture and deceive the public."