Vietnam recalls book with controversial Chinese flag

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A Chinese flag pictured at a school in a book for preschool children translated from Chinese has caused angered many parents, and caused wonder at many children as well

A company in Hanoi is recalling copies of a translated Chinese children's book after it sparked controversy by showing a picture of the Chinese flag.

Nguyen Thanh Giang, director of Huong Thuy Culture Company that helps distributing the book, said it has drawn the wrath of parents who are angry about several images in the book "Developing Children's Intelligence Comprehensively", which is part of a set to prepare upcoming first graders.

Page 16, designed to help children develop their story-telling skills, shows a little girl and a woman waving in front of a school and asks what is happening in the picture.

The pictured school's flag is a Chinese one.

The Tuoi Tre (Youth) said children replied to the question in various ways, including: "Why isn't it our country's flag?" and "Why does the school fly a Chinese flag?"

"This is our mistake that is part of the copyright agreement with the [Chinese] partner. We will try to fix this soon as such a mistake, involving a Chinese flag, is not good," Giang said.

He said customers can return the book for a refund or in exchange for a different book. 

Giang said the company is having the flags taken out of all copies of the book, and changing questionable contents in the introduction on the front and back covers.

The introduction said the book was compiled according to the Ministry of Education and Training's kindergarten training program, but Ngo Thi Hop from the ministry's Kindergarten Education Department said that was "ambiguous," and that it should say "Chinese Ministry" instead. 

Bui Thi Huong, director of Dan Tri Company, which published the book, said she was on board with the changes.

But Huong did not call it a mistake, saying her company and Huong Thuy had to follow the "strict" copyright agreement with their foreign partner.

"[It] requires us to keep all the words and images like in the original. We are not to change anything," she told the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.

Hop said the two companies did not consult with Vietnam's Education Ministry about the book, so the mistakes were all their fault.

"We cannot fly a Chinese flag. Even though the book is a translation, it will be made suitable to Vietnamese students instead of being a total copy," she said.

Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, former head of Ho Chi Minh City Education Department's Kindergarten Division, told Tuoi Tre the incident was "unacceptable."

"Children at this [kindergarten] age are very sensitive. Psychologically, when one eats a good dish when they're little, they will remember it forever. An image from childhood will also be deeply rooted in their memory," Thanh said.

She said children in Vietnamese kindergartens have already started learning about concepts such as country, national flag, and they know that their school flies their country's flag.

The book should be changed so Vietnamese children understand their motherland, and that there's only one national flag.

Vietnam and several other Asian countries are caught in water sovereignty disputes with China. Vietnam's case concerns the Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) archipelagos in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.

China has made brazen moves of late, most recently sending a patrol helicopter over the Spratlys, according to Xinhua, after other provocations such as oil exploration and tourism ventures around the islands.

Chinese vessels have many times harassed Vietnamese fishing and surveillance vessels operating in the area.

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