China’s politicized passport enrages neighboring countries

Updated 24 November 2012
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China’s politicized passport enrages neighboring countries

TAIPEI, Taiwan: China has enraged several neighbors with a few dashes on a map, printed in its newly revised passports that show it staking its claim on the entire South China Sea.
Inside the passports, an outline of China printed in the upper left corner includes Taiwan and the sea, hemmed in by the dashes. The change highlights China’s longstanding claim on the South China Sea in its entirety, though parts of the waters also are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.
China’s official maps have long included Taiwan and the South China Sea as Chinese territory, but the act of including them in its passports could be seen as a provocation since it would require other nations to tacitly endorse those claims by affixing their official seals to the documents.
Ruling party and opposition lawmakers alike condemned the map in Taiwan, a self-governed island that split from China after a civil war in 1949. They said it could harm the warming ties the historic rivals have enjoyed since Ma Ying-jeou became president 4 1/2 years ago.
“This is total ignorance of reality and only provokes disputes,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the Cabinet-level body responsible for ties with Beijing. The council said the government cannot accept the map.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters in Manila that he sent a note to the Chinese Embassy that his country “strongly protests” the image. He said China’s claims include an area that is “clearly part of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain.”
The Vietnamese government said it had also sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi, demanding that Beijing remove the “erroneous content” printed in the passport.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry said the new passport was issued based on international standards. China began issuing new versions of its passports to include electronic chips on May 15, though criticism cropped up only this week.
“The design of this type of passports is not directed against any particular country,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily media briefing yesterday. “We hope the relevant countries can calmly treat it with rationality and restraint so that the normal visits by the Chinese and foreigners will not be unnecessarily interfered with.”
It’s unclear whether China’s South China Sea neighbors will respond in any way beyond protesting to Beijing. China, in a territorial dispute with India, once stapled visas into passports to avoid stamping them.


Former guerilla set to be sworn in as East Timor leader

Updated 22 June 2018
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Former guerilla set to be sworn in as East Timor leader

DILI, East Timor: East Timor will swear in a new government led by former guerilla fighter Taur Matan Ruak Friday following a protracted political crisis that has paralyzed the tiny Southeast Asian nation.
Ruak will head the second government in less than a year in the impoverished half-island nation that won independence in 2002 after a brutal 24-year occupation by neighboring Indonesia.
Born Jose Maria Vasconcelos but universally known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak — which means “Two sharp eyes” — was a commander in the East Timorese resistance before becoming chief of the newly independent nation’s army.
He also served in the largely ceremonial role of president between 2012 and 2017.
Parliament was dissolved in January amid tensions between former prime minister Mari Alkatiri’s minority government and an opposition centered around independence hero Xanana Gusmao.
An alliance led by Gusmao clinched an absolute majority in elections held in May.
Ruak’s new government includes members of Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, the People’s Liberation Party and the youth-based Khunto.
The incoming administration will face big challenges, especially as the clock is ticking fast on East Timor’s disappearing oil and gas reserves.
The resources pay for the bulk of government spending but oil revenues are in steep decline and the country has few other productive economic sectors.
About 60 percent of East Timor’s population is under 25, according to the World Bank, while some 40 percent of its people live in poverty.
Providing jobs for young people and reining in public spending — especially on large infrastructure projects — will be key tasks for the new government, analysts say.