Several Vietnamese artists have put pressure on a Chinese illustration artist to remove a marine biodiversity map containing incorrect information on Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Vietnam Sea.

The map in question was showcased on the Behance account of Chinese illustrator Feifei Ruan.

Behance, owned by American software company Adobe, is an online platform for displaying artworks by artists all over the world.

Feifei’s illustrated map presents drawings of 35 endemic species of marine animals as wellas their distribution and conservation.

The map shows half of the animals living in the waters that Vietnam has sovereignty over.

An illicit and disgraceful ‘nine-dash line’ was added to the map to give the wrong impression that all of those marine animals live within Chinese waters.

The ‘nine-dash line’ is an arbitrary demarcation line used on Chinese maps to illustrate Beijing’s illegal and unilaterally declared claims to vast expanses of the East Vietnam Sea, including large swathes of Vietnam’s Continental Shelf.

The marine biodiversity map in question is a part of the project Haibaotu (Map of Ocean Treasures), which is inspired by Haicuotu, an ancient book of marine life drawn by Chinese artist Nie Huang dating back three centuries.

The logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is displayed on the controversial map.

On World Ocean Day on June 8, the verified Weibo account of the WWF in China also posted the map, calling on users of the Chinese social networking site to protect the environment and reduce plastic waste.

After discovering the illustration whose content is in violation of Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty in the East Vietnam Sea, many Vietnamese artists expressed their disagreement with Feifei on Behance.

In a matter of several hours, the Behance account got hundreds of comments asking the Chinese artist to take down the illicit map, with many reporting the post for violation.

As of Thursday morning, the map had been removed from the platform, while Feifei had also deleted the map with the ‘nine-dash line’ from the artist’s personal site.

“My friends and I have been asked to take part in some similar projects by European media agencies,” Vietnamese illustration artist Pham Quang Phuc told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper: 

“We were told to illustrate the tourist books of three Chinese provinces bordering Vietnam, draw some celebrated landscapes of China, and illustrate Chinese tourist maps,” he said, adding that most of the projects were aimed at young audiences.

He often rejects such offers as well as advises his friends to do the same despite their very high pay, according to Phuc.

“I can’t make sure what they would do with my drawings after they receive them. I don’t know what the publishers and distributors may add to my illustrations to change the original content,” he explained.

Phuc advised young Vietnamese artists to think twice before signing any contracts with Chinese partners, especially ones concerning maps, tourism, geography, and the like.

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