Vietnam Gets Netflix to Pull Spy Show over Pro-China Content

In this July 13, 2018, photo, a globe shows the islands on the South China Sea with nine-dash line claims under Chinese territory on display at a bookstore in Beijing. In the South China Sea, China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons …
AP Photo/Andy Wong

The U.S.-based streaming platform Netflix removed an Australian television show from its Vietnamese service after the Vietnamese government complained that a South China Sea map depicted in the series violated Vietnamese sovereignty, the Hanoi Times reported on Friday.

Two episodes of Pine Gap, an Australian espionage drama, include brief depictions of China’s “nine-dash line” map, which is an outline of nine dashes delineating Beijing’s illegal claims to over 90 percent of the South China Sea. The dashes cut into other nations’ sovereign territory within the contested body of water, including that of Vietnam, causing significant tension between the two communist countries. Beijing’s “nine-dash line” map is “an illegal map solely claimed by China and unrecognized by the international community,” the Hanoi Times noted on July 2.

Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) filed an official complaint with Netflix on June 25 arguing that the streaming of a program depicting the “nine-dash line” map within Vietnam “violated the country’s sovereignty over sea and islands” and “seriously infringed [upon] Vietnam’s Law on the Press and Law on Cinema.” The ABEI also issued Netflix an official demand to stop streaming Pine Gap in Vietnam.

Netflix responded to ABEI by removing the spy drama from its streaming options in Vietnam on June 30.

“Following a written legal demand from the Vietnamese regulator, we have removed the licensed series, Pine Gap, from Netflix in Vietnam, to comply with local law,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. “It remains available on our service in the rest of the world.”

“Netflix’s violations have hurt feelings and caused outrage among the entire Vietnamese people,” the ABEI, which is run by Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications, wrote in a statement posted to its official website on July 1.

Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City government fined a regional CEO of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer $1,286 last May for distributing a map of the South China Sea to her employees that included Beijing’s “nine-dash line.” The Ho Chi Minh City government summoned local Bayer director Lynette Moey Yu Lin on May 21, 2020, to inform her that she would be fined for violating Vietnam’s “regulation banning the spread of illegal information and images regarding Vietnam’s sovereignty” by sending a personal email containing misinformation, i.e. the “nine-dash line” map, in April 2020.

Vietnam pulled Abominable, a film co-produced by the U.S. studio DreamWorks’ Animation and China’s Pearl Studio, from its cinemas in October 2019 over a scene in the movie depicting Beijing’s “nine-dash line” map. Vietnam’s government ordered Abominable‘s Vietnamese distributor, the South Korean company CJ CGV, to stop screening the movie and fined CJ CGV roughly $7,281 for licensing the film.

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