Vietnam looking into motive of Chinese group behind nine-dash line shirts

By Xuan Ngoc   May 16, 2018 | 01:24 am PT
Vietnam looking into motive of Chinese group behind nine-dash line shirts
Chinese tourists wear T-shirts of a Chinese map with the nine-dash line as they arrive at Cam Ranh airport in central Vietnam on Sunday. Photo by Vu Cha
It's illegal for anyone to demonstrate the line in Vietnam but the country does not have a specific rule on the matter.

A group of Chinese tourists entering Vietnam wearing T-shirts with a Chinese map that violates Vietnam's sovereignty has caused uproar among local public and won global headlines, prompting top tourism officials to urge for actions, but Khanh Hoa Province said it needs time.

Police at Cam Ranh International Airport caught 14 Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts with a nine-dash line, which claims most of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea as China's territory, on Sunday. They ordered the tour company, which is based in the nearby resort town Nha Trang, to have the visitors take off the outfit and confisticated all of them.

Nguyen Viet Dinh, the province's deputy police chief, said investigators are clarifying the motive of the Chinese group, who said they bought the T-shirts at a market at home. They were scheduled to stay in Nha Trang for five days.

"We have to investigate and collect enough evidence before we can draw a conclusion and decide how to handle the case," Dinh said.

Officials in the central coastal province said they are aware that it's illegal for someone in Vietnam to demonstrate the nine-dash line, but there are not yet specific legal regulations to handle the situation.

Tran Son Hai, the province's vice chairman, said this was the first time Chinese nationals were caught wearing the outfit to enter Vietnam.

The province has an etiquette guide for tourists and a code of conduct warning them against spreading false information about Vietnam's history and culture, but nothing specifically about the nine-dash line. China's U-shaped nine-dash line marks a vast expanses of the South China Sea that it claims, including large swathes of Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone. Vietnam calls the waterway the East Sea.

"We are pretty puzzled about dealing with this," Hai said.

News of the Chinese wearing the map surfaced on Tuesday, causing outrage on social media. Many people, both Vietnamese and foreigners, urged the local authorities to deport the Chinese.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has instructed Khanh Hoa authorities to take actions, and asked for assistance from the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nha Trang has become one of the country’s top holiday destinations among both local and foreign tourists, and helped draw 750,000 foreign travelers to Khanh Hoa during the first quarter this year, in which 465,200 are from China.

The number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam skyrocketed 40 percent to a massive 1.77 million the first four months this year, official data show.

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