Vietnamese citizens protest National Geographic mapping error

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A group of Vietnamese citizens has sent a letter to the National Geographic Society opposing the latter's publishing of a map that shows the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands as belonging to China.

"We urge you to reclassify the islands and put them under the correct status as being disputed by Vietnam and China," the group said in a letter to the society's Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns. The letter was also forwarded to the government, the National Assembly and many newspapers in Vietnam.

The letter, signed by the group's representatives including Nguyen Hung, Ngo Khoa Ba and Le Quang Long, asks the society to reconsider several points "in the interest of scholarship and fairness."

 The letter pointed out that "the islands in question, as well as those of the Spratlys Archipelago, historically belong to Vietnam. We have legal documents and human habitation to claim sovereignty. No other country has claimed ownership of these islands until recent discoveries of rich oil and gas deposits around the islands.

"In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the war theater in Vietnam, China invaded the Paracel Islands and after a brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then Republic of Vietnam, has occupied the Paracel Islands. United Vietnam after 1975 has never relinquished ownership of the Paracel Islands as well as that of Spratly Islands. It has vigorously protested the illegal Chinese occupation of the Paracel Islands as well as some parts of the Spratly Islands not only directly to China, but also the United Nations."

The letter also cited a National Geographic issue on China's seizure of the Paracel Islands from the Vietnamese.

"Here is what you said on page 10 of the Dec 1998 issue: "˜In 1988, China sank Vietnamese ships, killing at least 70 sailors, before taking several of the Spratlys islands - the most serious clash since it seized the Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974. Tensions fuelled a local arms race as well as fears that China aims to dominate all of Asia by controlling the sea,'" it said.

"Your classification of the Paracel Islands as part of China is seen as putting a non-governmental seal of approval on a matter which is under dispute. This action could cloud legal international interpretations for many years to come," the letter said.

"We are writing this letter because National Geographic Society is a respectable organization and its maps are widely consulted as reference," it added.

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