China’s politicized passport enrages neighboring countries



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Saturday 24 November 2012

Last update 24 November 2012 3:09 am

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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.

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