Vietnam issues stapled visas to Chinese passport holders
Beijing: Taking a leaf out of Beijing's past practice of issuing stapled visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir, Vietnam is issuing visas for Chinese passport holders on separate paper, to counter China's map on its new e-passports showing disputed areas as part of its territory.
Vietnam's passport control offices are refusing to stamp visa pages in the new passports containing a map showing islands in the South China Sea as part of Chinese territory.
To counter this, Vietnamese passport control offices are issuing separate visa sheets to new Chinese passport holders instead of stamping inside the pages, China's state-run CCTV reported.
China's controversial move to print the map in the passport forced its neighbours to come out with innovative moves to counter it as it contained the disputed parts.
Diplomats say stamping visas on the passports amount to tacitly accepting China's claims over the areas.
The discreet Chinese move also riled India as the map showed Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of China for which the two countries are holding periodic talks to resolve the border dispute.
In a tit-for-tat move, Indian Embassy here started stamping the Chinese passports with official map of India, catching the Chinese officials by surprise.
Vietnam, along with the Philippines, also objected to Chinese maps in the passports.
Hanoi countered it with stapled visas, similar to what China had done in 2009 for residents of Jammu and Kashmir to show that it is a disputed region.
It is not yet clear whether China has taken umbrage to the stapled visas as India did.
Beijing called off the move last year which enabled the two countries to resume defence relations which were put on hold by New Delhi.
China introduced the new e-passports, which contained an electronic chip in May this year.
Reacting to the objections from neighbouring countries to the maps, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the passports were introduced to the "countries across the world prior to its launch" in May this year.
"The passport is not designed to target any specific country. We hope relevant countries regard it in a level-headed and rational manner so as not to bring unnecessary disruptions to normal people-to-people exchanges", she said.