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Vietnam bans ‘Barbie’ movie over South China Sea map


HANOI — Vietnam has banned Warner Bros' highly-anticipated film "Barbie" from domestic distribution over a scene featuring a map that shows China's unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea, state media reported on Monday.

The U-shaped "nine-dash line" is used on Chinese maps to illustrate its claims over vast areas of the South China Sea, including swathes of what Vietnam considers its continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.

"Barbie" is the latest movie to be banned in Vietnam for depicting China's controversial nine-dash line, which was repudiated in an international arbitration ruling by a court in The Hague in 2016. China refuses to recognize the ruling.

In 2019 the Vietnamese government pulled DreamWorks' animated film "Abominable"—a move also done by Malaysia's government—and last year it banned Sony's action movie "Uncharted" for the same reason. Netflix also removed Australian spy drama "Pine Gap" from its Vietnam services in 2021.

The Philippines also pulled "Uncharted" from cinemas due to the presence of the map, and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) also requested the removal of "Pine Gap" from Netflix's services in the Philippines.

"Barbie," starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, was originally slated to open in Vietnam on July 21, the same date as in the United States, according to state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.

"We do not grant license for the American movie 'Barbie' to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line," the paper reported, citing Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema, a government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films.

Warner Bros did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vietnam and China have long had overlapping territorial claims to a potentially energy-rich stretch in the South China Sea. The Southeast Asian country has repeatedly accused Chinese vessels of violating its sovereignty. — Reuters

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