HANOI, Vietnam — 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, inflaming tensions between Hanoi and Beijing as they square off 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.
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. Vietnamese 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 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."
Ha Tinh's deputy police chief, Bui Dinh Quang, said the situation was "stable" Thursday and that none of the 141 injured had life-threatening injuries.