A Vietnamese border guard keeps watch as Chinese migrants cross the border checkpoint in Mong Cai city, Quang Ninh Province, in Vietnam. Photo: AFP
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said Friday that the country's tourism sector always welcomes Chinese tourists and treats them fairly, after a Chinese tourist was beaten at a Vietnamese border crossing 10 days ago, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
"Any charges that do not accord with national regulation are illegal. … We will continue coordination with relevant agencies to increase quality of products and services so that Chinese tourists to Vietnam should feel satisfied," said VNAT in a letter to the Xinhua News Agency on Friday.
VNAT’s remarks came after China on Thursday demanded that Vietnam apologize to a Chinese tourist who says he was beaten up by Vietnamese border guards after failing to pay a bribe on February 7.
A group of about eight uniformed men beat up the Chinese man surnamed Xie in Vietnam’s northern city of Mong Cai on the border with China that day, after he failed to pay a “tip”, China News Service reported on February 13, citing Xie.
The head of the consular affairs office of China’s foreign ministry “had a special appointment” on Thursday with the Vietnam ambassador to "once more express our stern position," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said during a regular news briefing on Thursday.
“China demands that Vietnam apologize and pay compensation to the victim, severely handle those involved and take effective measures to ensure an incident does not happen again,” Geng said.
Vietnam has already suspended eight people involved in the incident, he added.
On February 15, in a letter to CCTV, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said that it was “clarifying” information on the incident provided by China, and would “resolve the issue (according to) the nature of the event”
Xie, accompanied by his mother and fiancee, went to Vietnam on January 25, and had been taking location photographs in Vietnam ahead of their wedding, according to the China News Service.
Xie’s mother had tried to halt the beating and make a video recording of it, only to be restrained, and had her phone confiscated.
The fiancée, identified as Xiao Li, said after Xie was beaten up by the border guards several times, they even forced Xie to write down a statement saying “he was not beaten up by Vietnam staff and his wound has nothing to do with them.”
In fact, it was not the first time that Chinese tourists were extorted bribes in Vietnam.
In May 2016, conflict was ignited between a group of Chinese tourists and border guards at Nha Trang Airport of Vietnam after the Chinese tourists refused to pay “tips”, the China National Radio reported in May last year.
The border guards even grabbed the Chinese tourists’ passports, and a family of three was finally released only after they paid 100 yuan to the guards, according to the report citing a witness.
The consulate general of Ho Chi Ming City was then quoted by CNR as saying that there were similar cases before in which Chinese tourists in Vietnam were extorted “tips” during frontier inspection.
A Chinese woman who traveled to Vietnam in April last year was asked by the tour guide to put 10 yuan ($1.46) cash into her passport during frontier inspection, which, the tour guide said, would save trouble.
“If the border guards there don’t see a 10 yuan cash, they would stretch out their hands and ask from you, but if you gave them (the money), it would be very smooth,” recalled the woman quoted by CNR. She added that although feeling being forced, many people just accept it in order to pass the Customs smoothly. After all 10 yuan is not too much, she said.
Besides Vietnam, southeastern countries including Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and even some African countries all have precedents in asking “tips” from foreign tourists during frontier inspection, according to West China City News citing Mr. Yang, working in tourism industry for many years. However, while Western tourists usually resist such requirements and sometimes turn the problem into diplomatic issues, Chinese tourists usually comply with such requirements to avoid troubles.
“As taking too much time during the border inspection may affect the traveling schedules and even cause business losses, many tour guides just ask their Chinese tourists to prepare change beforehand in order to avoid troubles. And Chinese tourists’ long-time concession has encouraged extorting behaviors of border guards in such countries,” said Mr. Yang.
Nearly 2.7 million Chinese tourists traveled to Vietnam in 2016, making up 27 percent of all visitors to Vietnam last year, according to figures from Vietnam's tourism administration.
The border crossing between Mong Cai and the city of Dongxing in China's southern region of Guangxi is the main crossing-point between the two nations.
In the letter to the Xinhua News Agency, VNAT said Vietnam and China are neighbors with “traditional friendship”, and “VNAT always welcomes Chinese tourists and is taking measures to make sure they are treated fairly” in the country.