Vietnam has pulled the animated film “Abominable” from theatres over a scene featuring a map of the South China Sea showing Beijing’s claims in the flashpoint waterway, state media reported Monday.
China has long used its so-called nine-dash line to justify its jurisdiction over most of the resource-rich sea, often to the displeasure of Hanoi which also claims parts of the waterway.
The U-shaped line appears on a map of the South China Sea in a scene in the film — released as “Everest: The Little Snowman” in Vietnam — which is about a Chinese teenager helping a yeti return to his home on Mount Everest.
State media said the movie — a joint production from DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio — would no longer be shown in Vietnam, where it was released on October 4.
“I will claim responsibility” for the mistake, said Nguyen Thu Ha, the head of Vietnam’s Cinema Department, according to Thanh Nien newspaper.
All films in the one-party state must be approved by communist censors who screen for gratuitous violence, suggestive sex scenes or politically-sensitive material.
Ha said she would remind her department “to be very vigilant… to be more prudent” in the future.
Photos of the faux pas circulated on social media Monday, showing the scene featuring the nine-dash line crossed out with a red “X” along with angry comments.
“Please sack the person in charge of censorship for this movie,” said Facebook user Pham Tan Phong.
Another said: “We cannot accept these blatant acts, especially regarding sensitive things like the current sea disputes”.
Vietnam’s censorship department refused to comment on the issue Monday, and DreamWorks did not respond to a request for comment.
China claims the majority of the South China Sea, often invoking its so-called nine-dash line as a supposed historical justification to the waters, which are a key global shipping route.
Though some films are barred from viewing in Vietnam where free speech is tightly controlled, others are approved for screening with significant edits.
The popular 2018 romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” saw a few snips. One of the cut scenes featured a designer bag with a map of the world showing disputed South China Sea islands under Beijing’s control.
This year’s hit “Joker”, starring Joaquin Phoenix, was also trimmed to exclude a scene of supporters rallying around the DC Comics villain — possibly to avoid any suggestion of a popular uprising or personality cult.