Tourists wearing nine-dash line shirts in Vietnam was 'unacceptable': gov't

By Hoang Thuy   May 18, 2018 | 08:30 pm PT
Tourists wearing nine-dash line shirts in Vietnam was 'unacceptable': gov't
Chinese tourists in the U-shaped nine-dash line T-shirts arrive at Cam Ranh Airport in central Vietnam on May 13, 2018. Photo by Vu Cha
'It was an organized act, prepared and arranged with bad intentions,' said a government spokesman.

A group of Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts with China's nine-dash line that violates Vietnam's sovereignty could be abusing tourism to conduct illegal propaganda, Vietnam's Government Office said on Friday.

"It was an organized act, prepared and arranged with bad intentions instead of a random, spontaneous act by the individual tourists," said Mai Tien Dung, Minister, Chairman of the Government Office.

"The act would have been unintended if each tourist had worn a different type of shirt, but here all of them wore the same T-shirt," he said, denouncing the act as "unacceptable."

On May 13, police at Cam Ranh International Airport in the central province of Khanh Hoa found 14 Chinese tourists passing through immigration wearing T-shirts with a Chinese map that includes the nine-dash line, which claims most of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including large swathes of Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone, as China's territory. Vietnam calls the waterway the East Sea.

The incident is the latest among a series of violations by Chinese nationals that Vietnam's tourism sector has encountered. Others were times when Chinese acted as unlicensed tour guides and spread distorted truth of Vietnamese history, and Chinese opening shops that only accepted Chinese currency.

"Relevant authorities must be able to foresee such incidents," Dung said. The number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam skyrocketed 40 percent to a massive 1.77 million in the first four months this year, accounting for a third of the country's foreign arrivals, official data show.

The T-shirts incident has caused uproar online, with many people calling for deportation of the Chinese.

Khanh Hoa authorities have yet to announced any actions, besides the confiscation of the T-shirts. The province's top officials said they are "puzzled" as there's no specific legal instructions for handling such violation, while its police said they need to investigate before drawing any conclusion.

The Chinese tourists were scheduled for a five-day tour in Khanh Hoa's resort town Nha Trang, and they would have left by now.

The U-shaped nine-dash line was unilaterally drawn by China based on what it called its "historical rights" to the region and encompasses the Paracel and Spratly Islands, as well as the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines.

An arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 UNCLOS in 2016 ruled that China has no legal basis to claim "historic rights" within its nine-dash line in a case brought by the Philippines. China, however, rejected this ruling.

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