Vietnam refuses to stamp new Chinese passports with 'illegal' map

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Vietnamese immigration officials are refusing to stamp new Chinese passports that include a map illegally claiming 90 percent of the East Sea belongs to China.

Instead, Vietnamese officials, including those at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, have stamped only loose-leaf or paper visas that were not attached to Chinese passports, Thanh Nien reporters observed.

In fact, most recent Chinese visitors to enter Vietnam via Noi Bai held loose-leaf visas that can be obtained without applicants submitting their passports to the Vietnamese embassy, but a copy of the passports' photo and personal detail page.  

Meanwhile, according to the Border Guards Headquarters in the northern province of Quang Ninh, Chinese with the new passports were still allowed to enter Vietnam via the Mong Cai international border gate. 

But, Vietnamese officials were not stamping the pages of their passports that contained the infamous nine-dash line printed on Chinese maps to assert China's territorial claim over nearly the entire East Sea, the headquarters said.

Provincial border guards also issued Chinese citizens forms to apply for loose-leaf visas so they would not need to stamp Chinese new passports, it added.

Elsewhere, border guards in the northern province of Lang Son are following Quang Ninh guards, as they process the paperwork for Chinese nationals who enter Vietnam via Tan Thanh international border gate, Senior lieutenant-colonel Le Quang Dao, chief of staff of the Lang Son Border Guard Headquarters, told Thanh Nien 

In the meantime, Bui Duc Hanh, Commander of Border Guards in the northern province of Lao Cai, said local immigration officials have been stamping Chinese passport pages with the offending line with the word "void."

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He said the officials had earlier stamped such passports without detecting the line which was printed "blurrily."

Chinese passports that had been mistakenly stamped were re-stamped "void" upon their holders' departure from Vietnam, Hanh said.

The "void" stamp, which appeared in both Vietnamese and English, was normally used to indicate mistakes made during the immigration process, he stressed.

So far 111 Chinese holding new passports have had them stamped "void" by Vietnamese officials when they returned to China via the Lao Cai international border gate, Tuoi Tre reported on Saturday.

In a phone interview with Thanh Nien, Major-lieutenant Bui Quang Ba, chief of the Institute for Public Security Strategy and Science under the Ministry of Public Security, said it was "an appropriate policy" for Vietnamese border guards to refuse to stamp Chinese passports with the geopolitically aggressive line.

Previously, Dr. Euan Graham from at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Thanh Nien that the newly designed Chinese passports which have provoked objections from Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries carry "no legal weight."

So, even if Vietnamese and Philippine immigration officers stamp the new Chinese passports, it does not mean the countries accept China's territorial claims in any way, he said.

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