Vietnam Bans “Barbie” Movie over Perceived Feature of China-Invented “Nine-Dash Line”

Vietnam Bans “Barbie” Movie over Perceived Feature of China-Invented “Nine-Dash Line”

Vietnam Police Put Six Suspects In The Dak Lak Shooting On The Special Wanted List

Vietnam’s State media on July 1 reported that the police in Dak Lak had issued a special arrest warrant for five suspects due to their alleged involvement in the attack on the headquarters of the People's Committee of Ea Ktur and Ea Tieu communes on June 11. The wanted fugitives, reportedly still at large, include Y Khing Lieng, 31, Nay Yen, 53, Y Ju Nie, 55, Nay Tam, 49, and Nay Duong, 55.

These suspects were charged with “conducting terrorism aimed at opposing the people's administration” under Article 113 of the Penal Code. The police warrant stated that they had fled the province and anyone had the right to arrest and escort the wanted people to the competent authorities.

On July 3, Vietnamese police added another ethnic minority suspect to the wanted list on the same “terrorism” allegation. Y Hual Eban, 53, who reportedly lived in Cu M’gar Commune, was said to be involved in the June 11 attack. As of June 23, the Dak Lak Provincial Security Investigation Agency had arrested 84 people and indicted 75 on “terrorism” charges. A police spokesman insisted that a foreign-based terrorist organization and hostile individuals were behind the incident, but they had not disclosed any relevant evidence to justify such claims.

The Ministry of Public Security also said they had seized all the weapons believed to have been used in the attack, including a variety of guns, grenades, ammunition, detonators, and explosives. They also reportedly confiscated 10 FULRO flags, a national insurgency established by Vietnam’s ethnic minorities that remained active between 1964 and 1992. However, no photos of the seized flags were publicized.

Vietnamese Youtube User Phan Son Tung Sentenced To Six Years Of Imprisonment On “Anti-State” Charges

The Hanoi People’s Court on July 3 convicted Phan Son Tung, a local Youtube user, of “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code and sentenced him to six years in prison. Tung, 39, was arrested in August last year following an announcement on social media that he would establish a new political party named “Đảng Việt Nam thịnh vượng” (Prosperous Vietnamese Party). The Youtube user expressed his opinion that forming different political parties was not illegal in Vietnam and that he was not fighting against the ruling Communist Party.

The trial of Tung started at 8.30 a.m. and concluded at noon the same day. Attorney Le Van Luan and Attorney Ngo Anh Tuan were the defense lawyers.

According to the indictment, since 2011, Tung has created and managed three Youtube channels “For a prosperous Vietnam,” “Son Tung TV,” and “Phan Son Tung.” He also owned a Facebook account under the named David Phan, which was reportedly used to manage another Facebook page called “For a prosperous Vietnam.”

The police security investigators alleged that of more than 1,000 videos that Tung published on his three Youtube channels, which chiefly discussed Vietnam’s socio-economic issues, 16 of them contained a total of 49 pieces of “illegal information” that allegedly “propagandize, distort, slander, and insult the reputation of several organizations and individuals.” The investigators also claimed that Tung “had broadcast 10 videos calling for the establishment of an illegal organization called the ‘Prosperous Vietnamese Party.’”

The indictment of Tung states that he had monetized his Youtube channels and earned a total of $80,000 (about 1.8 billion dong). Tung was also accused of making 500 caps bearing the words “For a Prosperous Vietnam,” originally costing 65,000 dong each. He then allegedly sold these caps on different e-commerce platforms for 150,000 dong each. The investigation agency also confiscated 114 unsold caps at Tung’s house.

Vietnamese Blogger Le Anh Hung Released After Completing Jail Term

Le Anh Hung, a Vietnamese blogger and former contributor to  Voice of America was released from prison on July 5 after serving his five-year prison sentence. Hung, 50, was arrested in July 2018 and subsequently charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the Penal Code. The Vietnamese authorities held Hung in pretrial detention without bringing his case to trial for four years. In August 2022, a court in Hanoi held a secret trial for the Vietnamese blogger, sentencing him to five years in prison. His family was not notified about the trial.

During Le Anh Hung’s detention, the Vietnamese authorities subjected him to psychiatric treatment at a mental hospital against his will. It was reported that Hung had been confined at a psychiatric hospital for the mentally ill in Hanoi for three years, where the facility’s doctors and staff allegedly mistreated and abused him. According to Hung and his family, he has not been diagnosed with any mental problems.

In an interview, Hung told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he was forced to take suspicious drugs at the psychiatric facility without being informed about its origins or effects. “If I didn't take them, they [the facility staff] would tie me up and inject the medicine,” he added. Hung said he had to take the medicine daily during his three-year coerced treatment at the mental hospital.

“I sent out petitions to oppose this treatment, but it didn’t work,” Hung said in another interview with VOA News. “I am against using or injecting psychotropic drugs into my body, which I think are toxic. For more than three years, I lived in such a poisoned situation.”

Nguyen Thuy Hanh, a Vietnamese activist who founded the 50K Fund, which was established to provide financial support to the families of Vietnamese political prisoners, was also forced to receive psychiatric treatment at Central Mental Hospital No. 1 while awaiting trial. Hanh was charged with “distributing anti-State propaganda,” an alleged violation of Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. Hanh will likely be held at the mental prison for years before her case is brought to trial.

Former Lawyer Imprisoned On Charges of “Abusing Democratic Freedoms”

A court in Hanoi on July 7 sentenced Phan Thi Huong Thuy, a lawyer who was a former member of the Hanoi Bar Association, to 12 months in prison on allegations of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of the State and individuals” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

Thuy, 64, was prosecuted in September 2022 for allegedly publishing three articles on her social media that allegedly defamed Nguyen Van Chien, the former Chairman of the Hanoi Bar Association and former Vice President of the Vietnam Bar Federation. Thuy told RFA that the prosecution resulted from her earlier accusation that Chien did not have a university degree. Chien, a former Vietnam National Assembly member, considered it an insult.

However, Thuy again stated that she did not intend to insult Chien and that her purpose was to ensure that those elected to the Executive Board of the Hanoi Bar Association must meet the required criteria for a university degree. In October 2020, Chien sent an application to the Internal Political Security Department of the Ministry of Public Security, requesting that they investigate whether Thuy was the owner of the Facebook account “Huong Thuy Phan” where the defaming articles were published.

The authorities later determined that between September 15, 2020, and October 2, 2020, Thuy used the “Huong Thuy Phan” Facebook account to publish eight articles defaming Chien. In addition, Thuy was also ordered to compensate Nguyen Van Chien 9 million dong and pay a court fee of 200,000 dong. According to state media, the defendant, lawyer Phan Thi Huong Thuy, and the victim, lawyer Nguyen Van Chien, were absent during the trial.

Another Vietnamese Conscript Dies While On Duty, Suspected Of Being Beaten To Death

Social media users in Vietnam, on July 6, started to share photos and videos of a young Vietnamese conscript who died while on duty, with many expressing concerns that he may have been beaten to death. The soldier is identified as Nguyen Van Hao, 19, from Uy No Commune, Dong Anh District, Hanoi. He volunteered for military service and enlisted in February 2023. Hao was assigned to the 97th Battalion, Artillery Service, and was stationed in Hamlet 5, Tong Bat Commune, Ba Vi District in Hanoi.

According to information posted by his relatives on social networks, Nguyen Van Hao died on July 5. Photos of the soldier's body provided by his family showed many bruises. The autopsy report provided by the authorities stated that the soldier had two broken left ribs. A Facebook account called Tran Ha, which initially uploaded the videos and photos of the deceased soldier, wrote a short statement “Bring justice to my grandchild, my grandchild is stationed in Battalion 97, Hamlet 5, Tong Bat Commune, Ba Vi, Hanoi.”

RFA wrote that its reporter contacted the relatives of Nguyen Van Hao, who confirmed that the information about his death was accurate. But the family refused to comment further as they were busy with the post-mortem process.

On June 7, the Vietnamese newspaper Dan Viet interviewed Nguyen Van Thieng, office chief of Dong Anh District People's Committee, about the incident. According to Thieng, the district authorities have received the information and assigned the District Military Command to provide relevant information to the District People's Committee.

The death of conscripted soldiers dying mysteriously while on duty has occurred several times in Vietnam recently, raising public concern and sparking anger in society. The Vietnamese military tries to conceal the actual cause of such deaths by declaring they resulted from suicide or accidents. But families of the soldiers suspect that they were beaten to death because they found many bruises on the bodies of the deceased soldiers.

In 2022, Nguyen Van Thien from Gia Lai and Ly Van Phuong from Tuyen Quang died in separate incidents while on duty. In the case of Thien, his military unit initially announced he “stumbled and died.” However, his unit was later forced to admit that he had been murdered by his comrades, leading to the arrest of three soldiers. Meanwhile, the military unit where Phuong was stationed declared that his death resulted from drowning.

Vietnam Bans “Barbie” Movie Over China-Invented “Nine-Dash Line”

Vietnam has banned the distribution of the famous “Barbie” movie after its National Film Evaluation Council claimed it contained a map that featured disputed Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea. The movie is said to show the China-invented contentious “nine-dash line” encircling the vast majority of the South China Sea, including the  Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. The Chinese claimed maritime territory falls into the waters contested by Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.

The nine-dash line was widely used in Chinese-issued maps to assert Beijing’s self-proclaimed sovereignty over the waters in the South China Sea. Although an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its claims, Beijing rejected the decision and continuously sought to carry out incursions and develop military installations in the contested areas.

Vietnam’s Director of the Cinema Department, Vi Kien Thanh, confirmed the ban on July 3, saying it resulted from a scene in “Barbie” depicting the “cow’s tongue line,” a common phrase referring to the nine-dash line in Vietnamese, “despite objections from the international community.” Major cinemas in Vietnam, such as Galaxy Cinema and CGV, have removed the movie’s showtime on their websites. The Vietnamese censors, however, did not publish the scene allegedly featuring the nine-dash line in the film. The social media users in Vietnam themselves found the alleged scene.

At a daily briefing on July 4, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “China’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent.” “We believe that the countries concerned should not link the South China Sea issue with normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges,” she said She did not say whether or not Beijing objected to Hanoi's banning of the movie.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Warner Bros. Studio, the producer of “Barbie,” said that a map of the South China Sea in the  movie is “harmless” since it only features a “whimsical, child-like crayon drawing.” “The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the real world. It was not intended to make any type of statement,” the studio said.

Several foreign observers said that the map did not appear to accurately portray the position of the nine-dash line. Bill Hayton, a frequent commentator on Vietnam, told the New York Times that if the map shown in the movie is the offending map, “I really can’t see what the fuss is about.”

“The map in the film appears to bear no relation to a real map of the world,” Mr. Hayton added. “This looks like Vietnam’s censors trying to demonstrate their patriotism and usefulness to the regime.”

Vietnam has banned similar movies that included scenes bearing the China-invented nine-dash line. They included the DreamWorks animated film Abominable, the Sony action movie Uncharted, and the Australian spy drama Pine Gap.

Vietnam Launches A Probe Into Blackpink Concert Over South China Sea Map

Reuters reported on July 6 that the Vietnamese authorities also launched a probe into K-pop group Blackpink’s tour organizer after several of its fans discovered its website showed a map of the South China Sea with the nine-dash line. Blackpink was scheduled to perform in the country’s capital, Hanoi, on July 29 and 30.

Vietnam’s culture ministry said on July 5 that it had ordered an inspection of the iME website, the tour organizer, “to verify the suspicion that the company organizing the Blackpink music night promoted the cow-tongue line.” Brian Chow, CEO of iME, said on July 6 that the incident was an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and that “iME was aware of respecting the sovereignty and culture of all the countries where it had a presence.” The company website was inaccessible following its CEO’s statement.

In a press conference on July 6, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said that Vietnam's position on the nine-dash line “has been clarified many times” and that “products and publications printed with ‘cow’s tongue line’ in Vietnam are in violation of Vietnam's regulations and are not accepted.” Hang added that a probe is being launched to verify the allegations.

When asked whether or not Blackpink’s show would be canceled if its tour organizer was found violating Vietnam’s territorial claims with the nine-dash line map, Hang declined to answer and said she would pass the question to relevant authorities.

U.S. Secretary Of State Receives Vietnam’s Central Committee For External Affairs

On June 29, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan received Le Hoai Trung, chairman of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) Central Committee’s Commission for External Affairs, during his visit to the United States from June 28 to July 2 at the State Department’s invitation. Vietnam observers say that Trung’s visit could pave the way for another visit to the United States by VCP chief Nguyen Phu Trong at the end of July.

In a press release published on June 30 on the White House website, both countries declared that they reaffirmed the strength of bilateral relations on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. – Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership. The release said that the two sides discussed a wide range of areas for future cooperation, including on energy, climate change, investment, education, human rights, and efforts to uphold peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. The statement said that Sullivan and Trung shared the view that “the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is a powerful example of reconciliation from the past with the continued potential to drive greater prosperity, stability, and peace in the future.”

In a tweet published on the same day, Secretary of State Blinken wrote that he had a “productive meeting” with Le Hoai Trung and that they discussed how the U.S. and Vietnam can further elevate and strengthen their partnership, which “has played an essential role in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific for over ten years.”

Trung suggested both countries continue promoting high-level exchanges and meetings, improving the efficiency of cooperation via the Party, state, and people-to-people diplomacy channels in line with the results of the previous phone talks between General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and President Joe Biden, Vietnam’s state media reported.

Vietnam Calls On Social Media Platforms To Use Artificial Intelligence To Remove “Anti-State Content”

Reuters reported that Vietnam had told cross-border social platforms to automatically use artificial intelligence (AI) models to detect and remove “toxic” content. The government deems “toxic” content offensive, false, and anti-State. This became the latest requirement from the Vietnamese government for foreign tech firms to stamp out further criticisms aimed at the regime on social media.

“This is the first time Vietnam has announced such an order,” state-run broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) reported from Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Telecommunications mid-year review event.

According to the information ministry, via Reuters, during the first half of this year, as per government requests, Facebook removed 2,549 posts, YouTube removed 6,101 videos, and TikTok took down 415 links. Vietnam has increasingly pressured foreign social media providers to comply with its censorship demands in recent years as a result of Vietnam’s growing importance as a digital market for these companies.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

A $30 billion climate finance pledge for Vietnam and Indonesia is hitting snags

Southeast Asia Globe/ Coby Hobbs/ July 5

“Natural gas isn’t the only thing catching heat in Vietnam’s participation in JETP. The government’s prolonged crackdown on civil society has also bred scepticism of their climate agenda as well as threats to their international aid.

Last month, police arrested Hoang Thi Minh Hong, former CEO of the environmentally focused civil society organisation CHANGE VN, on tax evasion charges.

Human rights experts believe Hoang – an activist seen by some as instrumental in bringing programmes such as the JETP to Vietnam – was arrested on trumped-up charges.

Human rights groups are now urging world leaders to pressure Vietnam on its repression of civil society before shelling out billions of dollars in assistance from the JETP.”

What is the 'nine-dash line' and what does it have to do with the Barbie movie?

The Conversation/ Donald Rothwell/ July 4

“China and Vietnam engaged in military clashes over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in 1974 and 1988.

Those disputes were over land, but more recently the focus has turned to claims over the continental shelf (the area of seabed that extends beyond the coast to at least 200 nautical miles), and the economic zones (the area at least 200 nautical miles from the coast).

Since the late 1940s, China has promoted the so-called nine-dash line in the South China Sea. The line, also known as the “U-shaped line” or “cow’s tongue” comprises nine dashes.”

All smoke from a ‘blazing’ anti-corruption campaign?

Asia Democracy Chronicles/ Nguyện Công Bằng/ May 15

“Yet another reason why corruption persists in Vietnam is that few believe the government’s anti-corruption drive is aimed at ridding the country of such nefarious practices. In truth, it is widely perceived to be more politically motivated than justice-oriented. President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc’s forced resignation, for instance, has been seen as part of a political reshuffle.

Not a few observers have noted that the Party had previously been silent on Tô Lâm, the Minister of Public Security who had faced widespread public criticism for luxurious dining during his trip to attend the COP26 climate summit in Scotland in late 2022. A video of the minister and his entourage being served the Golden Tomahawk steak – which sells for up to US$2,000 – had gone viral in Vietnam, promoting questions on social media as to how government employees on modest official salaries could afford such extravagance.”

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