Uproar Over ‘Abominable’ Movie’s Map of China Spreads in Asia

Cecilia Yap

(Bloomberg) -- DreamWorks Animation’s “Abominable” has drawn calls for boycotts and censorship in Southeast Asia as it shows a map of China with maritime claims the country’s neighbors dispute.

The map shows Beijing’s so-called nine-dash line encompassing about 80% of the South China Sea as Chinese territorial waters. Universal Pictures, which released the film worldwide, and its partner and co-producer China-based Pearl Studio declined to comment.

The uproar adds DreamWorks to the list of big global brands hit by geopolitical crossfire in Asia over issues from sovereignty to maritime boundaries and political unrest. The National Basketball Association saw broadcasts of its exhibition games in China canceled after a team official in the U.S. expressed his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in a tweet that was later deleted.

“Abominable” tells the story of a teenage girl named Yi, who finds a yeti on her roof in Shanghai. She names him “Everest” and sets off to help him get home to his family in the Himalayas. The movie also opened in U.S. theaters late last month and in China on Oct. 1.

Vietnam has ordered a halt to screenings of “Abominable,” while the Philippines’ foreign secretary called for a boycott of all Dreamworks movies. Censors in Malaysia have ordered the scene showing the map removed from the movie, Reuters reported Thursday.

“For me, call a universal boycott of all DreamWorks production here on,” Teodoro Locsin, foreign secretary for the Philippines, said in a tweet this week. Locsin’s post came in reaction to one by a maritime-law professor calling for the movie to be banned in the Southeast Asian country. The Philippines hasn’t imposed any restrictions on the film.

Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have been disputing China’s sovereignty claims over islands and waters between them.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in a rare rebuke of China earlier this year, told the country to lay off an island in the disputed waters. Manila has also protested the presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels near the area.

At the same time, Duterte is pressing ahead with a plan to explore for oil and gas in the sea jointly with China, which has promised 60-40 revenue sharing favoring the Philippines. The U.S. estimates the region has $2.5 trillion in unexploited hydrocarbon resources.

In a separate tweet Thursday, Locsin of the Philippines weighed in again on “Abominable.”

“Failure to react may be seen as a kind of submission on the diplomatic level,” he wrote. “But our reaction must be minimally invasive of free speech concerns.”

--With assistance from Christopher Palmeri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cecilia Yap in Manila at cyap19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sam Nagarajan at samnagarajan@bloomberg.net, ;Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net, Clarissa Batino, Ruth Pollard

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