Vietnam bans Barbie

The much-anticipated Barbie film is due to release in cinemas on 21 July. It was originally due to premiere on the same day in Vietnam, but now the country has banned the film from domestic distribution over a scene featuring a map that shows China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea, state media have reported.

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 banned Dreamworks’ Abominable, and last year it banned Sony’s action movie Uncharted, for the same reason. Netflix also removed the Australian spy drama Pine Gap in 2021, reports The Guardian.

„We do not grant licence 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, the head of the department of cinema, a government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films.

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

Vietnam and China have long had overlapping territorial claims to an energy-rich zone in the South China Sea. Vietnam has repeatedly accused Chinese vessels of violating its sovereignty, reports the BBC.

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