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A rally which drew around a thousand protesters in Hanoi focused local ire on the Chinese embassy, while smaller protests in Danang and Ho Chi Minh City echoed the anti-Chinese sentiment emanating from the political capital, CNN said.
The demonstrations were sparked by what Vietnam says were intimidatory tactics involving China's deployment of a deep-sea drilling platform in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese officials say Chinese military and civilian ships have been harassing their vessels near the Paracel Islands -- which are controlled by Beijing but claimed by Hanoi -- since the previous Sunday, even accusing the Chinese of repeatedly ramming into them and shooting water cannon.
"The Xisha (Paracel) Islands are China's inherent territory," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing Monday. "The Chinese company's normal operations fall within China's sovereignty. China ... has required the Vietnamese side to take all necessary measures to protect the safety and lawful rights of Chinese citizens and institutions in Vietnam."
While public protests are rare in Vietnam, where the one-party system is wary of public gatherings, there have been several anti-Chinese protests in recent years.
That this weekend's actions went ahead unobstructed by police is seen as a sign that the government tacitly approves of the protests.