A travel agency in Vietnam has been slapped with a US$1,800 fine and suspended for nine months after a group of Chinese tourists under its management was pictured wearing T-shirts featuring the illicit ‘nine-dash line’ that violates Vietnam’s sovereignty.
The Aladin Vietnam Co. Ltd., based in Nha Trang City in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, said on Thursday it had paid the penalty and complied with the suspension order issued by the provincial tourism department.
The company was fined for negligence that resulted in violations of tourism regulations.
“Leaders of our company are considering the dissolution of our business due to a number of reasons, including the long suspension which can deprive us of customers,” a representative from Aladin told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
On May 13, a group of about ten Chinese nationals who were travelling to Vietnam on a tour operated by Aladin landed at Cam Ranh International Airport in Khanh Hoa and made their way through immigration, wearing T-shirts featuring the map of China.
All of these maps included the so-called 'nine-dash line,' a cow tongue-shaped imaginary line illegally created by China to claim its sovereignty over about 80 percent of the East Vietnam Sea, including Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.
Vietnam has sternly condemned the illicit claim on multiple occasions and demanded that its northern neighbor respect its sovereignty over the East Vietnam Sea.
According to Aladin’s manager, it was not until the Chinese tourists had passed immigration that the company’s tour guide became aware of the invalid map on their T-shirts and asked them to get changed.
The tour operator also reported the incident to relevant authorities and provided the police with the Chinese nationals’ personal particulars.
Since the incident, the tourism department of Khanh Hoa says it has published relevant Vietnamese laws online for tourists to research before visiting the country to avoid committing violations.
It has held meetings with local and international tour agencies to disseminate the information widely to prevent future mishaps.