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Passport squabble irks Chinese travelers
by Staff Writers
Beijing (UPI) Nov 27, 2012

Vietnam refuses to stamp new Chinese passport
Hanoi (AFP) Nov 27, 2012 - Vietnamese immigration officers said Tuesday they were refusing to stamp entry visas into controversial new Chinese passports which feature a map of Beijing's claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

Vietnam has said the computer-chipped passports violate its sovereignty and has demanded Beijing withdraw the documents, which show the contested Paracel and Spratly Islands as Chinese territory.

"We do not stamp the new Chinese passports," said an official at Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport, the country's main international gateway.

"We issue them a separate visa," said the official, who did not want to be named.

A border guard in northern Lang Son province said they were also not stamping the new passports but issuing separate visas to Chinese arrivals.

Even with the new passports, however, "Chinese citizens can still travel normally through the border gate," the guard added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday that he was not aware of Vietnam's refusal to stamp visas in China's new passports.

Beijing has attempted to downplay the diplomatic fallout from the recently introduced passports, with the foreign ministry arguing the maps were "not made to target any specific country".

Microblog users in China complained the immigration rules for the new passports were causing inconvenience and delays on arrival.

"Immigration is requesting a separate visa form. This is causing lots of trouble, and is very time consuming," one user wrote on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

Beijing has long infuriated southern neighbours such as Vietnam with its claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea, with Chinese maps showing a "nine-dash line" that runs almost to the Philippine and Malaysian coasts.

Both the Philippines and India have also protested against the map in Beijing's new biometric passports.

India has started stamping its own map onto visas issued to Chinese visitors as the map shows the disputed border areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of Chinese territory.

Manila, which claims part of the Spratlys, sent Beijing a formal protest letter last week, calling the maps "an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law".

The South China Sea is strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources.

Other claimants to parts of the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Vietnam is making its case against Chinese claims to disputed maritime territories by refusing to stamp the passports of Chinese tourists.

The move has offended some Chinese travelers, who said they might cancel visits to Vietnam, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Vietnam's passport control offices are refusing to stamp visa pages in the new passports because the map of China inside shows the country's territorial claims on the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Also claimed by China and Vietnam - as well as the Philippines -- are the Spratly Islands.

Despite the rift, Vietnam is allowing in Chinese tourists with the new passports. Border staff members are issuing Chinese tourists separate visa sheets for insertion into the new passports.

The Chinese public is indignant and may curtail their tourist trips, Xinhua said.

"Ms. Chen, a student at Tsinghua University," said the territorial claims should be printed inside the passports. "The islands originally were ours. It's just like the Diaoyu Islands, we should take back what's ours."

China disputes the Diaoyu Islands with Japan.

"Chen Chuliang, a Beijing resident," said, "If the controversies continue to snowball, I certainly won't choose to go to these countries."

China continually denounces claims to the territories by its neighbors, which actively control most of the disputed islands, the vast majority of which are uninhabited.

Their real value lies in potential mineral, oil, natural gas and fisheries resources.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China soon will make its submission to a U.N. commission concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

China claims its continental shelf in the East China Sea extends to the Okinawa Trough close to Japan.

A report by the BBC said the Philippines Foreign Ministry is accepting the new Chinese passports while it considers its options.

China's border disputes extend to its hinterland as well, including two Himalayan regions claimed by India.

China's new passports also lay claim to some disputed Himalayan territory and India is stamping its own map on visas issued to Chinese citizens, the BBC reported.

However, border disagreements with India remain low-key, a Xinhua report said, and are mainly talked up by Western media.

"For centuries, the two oriental civilizations were plainly peaceful with each other across the Himalayas," Xinhua said. "Then came the Western colonizers who trickily planted the seeds for territorial disputes between the two countries and even a brief border war in 1962."

The Xinhua article instead focused on increasing economic cooperation between the two countries.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the Chinese move was "unacceptable" to India.

But India's Hindustan Times reported that National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon remained unperturbed by China's passport map that shows Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh areas under Chinese control.

"What has changed?" he said. "Chinese have a view on where the boundary lies. The Chinese chose to put a watermark on their passports which shows the boundaries as they see it. We show our boundary as we see it on visas that we issue."


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India counters China map claims in a tit-for-tat move
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 24, 2012
India is stamping its map on visas given to Chinese visitors, an Indian official said Saturday, after China began issuing passports showing disputed territories as its own. "We have started issuing visas with India's map as we know it," said a foreign ministry official, who did not wish to be named, declining to comment further. India's tit-for-tat action comes after China began issuing ... read more

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