Vietnam refuses to stamp new Chinese passport

Updated 27 November 2012
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Vietnam refuses to stamp new Chinese passport

HANOI: 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 neighbors 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.


Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

Updated 42 min 2 sec ago
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Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

CHENNAI: Outrage swelled Wednesday over the deaths of 10 protesters at a rally over a copper plant in southern India, after police opened fire on demonstrators in what critics termed “mass murder.”
Violence erupted Tuesday in Tamil Nadu state at a long-running demonstration demanding the closure of the smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources which residents say is causing environmental damage.
The state’s chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the shootings but the move failed to stem rising anger over the clashes, which also left about 80 wounded.
M.K. Stalin, leader of the main Tamil Nadu opposition party the DMK, said police were guilty of “atrocities.”
“Mass Murder of Innocent People,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Who ordered the police firing on protesters? Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted?“
A video of a police officer on top of a bus and pointing an assault rifle at crowds has fueled fresh anger.
Rahul Gandhi, the national leader of the opposition Congress party, has called the deaths “a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism.”
“These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice,” he said.
Police said Tuesday that 12 people had died but later revised the toll in the port city of Tuticorin.
P. Mahendran, superintendent of Tuticorin district police, said 18 officers were also wounded in the clashes.
“The situation is tense but under control today,” he said. “The post mortem on the bodies is being conducted and they will be handed over to families today.”
The plant, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) south of Tamil Nadu’s state capital Chennai, is currently closed as Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper subsidiary seeks a new license so it can be expanded.
The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator’s office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.
Police said efforts to disperse the crowd of several thousand with a baton charge and tear gas volleys failed before authorities used live ammunition.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami ordered the judicial inquiry into the shootings but defended the police.
“The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence,” he said.
The families of each victim would be offered one million rupees ($14,700) compensation, he added.
The deaths came on the 100th day of demonstrations against the plant, which environmentalists and residents claim is contaminating water sources — a charge the company denies.
The protests intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to double the 400,000-ton annual capacity of the plant.
It was shut briefly after an alleged gas leak in March 2013 that left hundreds with breathing difficulties, nausea and throat infections.
The company maintains that it adheres to environmental standards and said it was the victim of “false propaganda” about its operations.
Tamil Nadu is one of India’s most industrialized and prosperous states and similar protests over environmental concerns have turned deadly in the past.
Tuticorin witnessed violent demonstrations in 2012 over a nuclear power plant in neighboring Kudankulam district that left one person dead.