China revises mapping law to bolster territorial claims

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday passed a revised mapping law to bolster understanding of its territorial claims and to create hefty new penalties to “intimidate” foreigners who carry out surveying work without permission, lawmakers said.

Paramilitary policemen hold their fists in front of a flag of Communist Party of China as they attend an oath-taking rally to ensure the safety of the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), at a military base in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province November 5, 2012. REUTERS/China Daily

China’s National People Congress Standing Committee, a top law-making body, passed a revised version of China’s surveying and mapping law intended to safeguard the security of China’s geographic information, lawmakers told reporters in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of new legislature in the name of safeguarding China’s national security by upgrading and adding to already broad laws governing state secrets and security.

Laws include placing management of foreign non-governmental organizations under the security ministry and a cybersecurity law requiring that businesses store important business data in China among others.

Overseas critics say that these laws give the state extensive powers to shut foreign companies out of sectors deemed “critical” or to crack down on dissent at home.

The revision to the mapping law aims to raise understanding of China’s national territory education and promotion among the Chinese people, He Shaoren, head spokesman for the NPC standing committee, said, according to the official China News service.

When asked about maps that “incorrectly draw the countries boundaries” by labeling Taiwan a country or not recognizing China’s claims in the South China Sea, He said: “These problems objectively damage the completeness of our national territory.”

China claims almost all the South China Sea and regards neighboring self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province.

The new law increases oversight of online mapping services to clarify that anyone who publishes or distributes national maps must do so in line with relevant national mapping standards, He said.

The rise of technology companies which use their own mapping technology to underpin ride-hailing and bike-sharing services made the need for revision pressing, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

Foreign organizations who wish to carry out mapping or surveying work within China must make clear that they will not touch upon state secrets or endanger state security, according to Song Chaozhi, deputy head of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping.

Foreign individuals or groups who break the law could be fined up to 1 million yuan ($145,000), an amount chosen to “intimidate”, according to Yue Zhongming, deputy head of the NPC Standing Committee’s legislation planning body.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Nick Macfie