China tightens rules on maps amid territorial disputes

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has tightened its rules on the distribution of maps that violate the government’s stance on territorial disputes, state television said on Wednesday.

The alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, is seen in this aerial file photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane on May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool/Files

The new rules come amid heightened tension with neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and a sensitive election in democratic, self-ruled Taiwan.

Chinese border officials have long confiscated maps that violate the country’s positions on issues such as Taiwan, islands in the South China Sea or territory in dispute with India.

The government also keeps tight controls on maps deemed to reveal sensitive geographic or security information.

China Central Television (CCTV) said publication and display of maps that do not comply with national standards would violate the new rules, as would carrying or mailing them across the country’s borders.

Content “that endangers the country’s sovereignty, safety and interests cannot be marked on maps,” government mapping official Li Weibin said in the broadcast.

Information that could hurt ethnic unity would be prohibited, the CCTV report added, urging that “territorial awareness” figure in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools.

China says it faces a serious threat from separatists in its western Xinjiang region and in Tibet.

The official Xinhua news agency announced the new rules on Monday, saying offences deemed to amount to a crime would face prosecution.

The rules take effect in January, Xinhua said, but state media have given few details.

Reporting by Natalie Thomas and Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez