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China cracks down on illegal online map services to protect state security

BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) — The Chinese government is to crack down on illegal online map and geographical information websites, claiming they threaten state security, said an official of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) on Tuesday.

Eight departments, including the SBSM, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Public Security, said they would tighten supervision over online map and geographical information service websites.

Min Yiren, deputy director of the SBSM, said almost 10,000 online map websites operated in China, most of them showing maps without approval.

“Some websites publish sensitive or confidential geographical information, which might leak state secrets and threaten national security,” Min said.

He said those websites would be closed down.

Foreign organizations and individuals engaging in making and publishing online maps in China would also be stopped.

The campaign would also target websites that made mistakes such as labeling Taiwan a “country”, wrongly drawing national boundaries, or omitting important islands including the South China Islands, Diaoyu Islands and Chiwei Island, said Min.

These websites would be punished and required to make corrections, he said.

A hotline has been set up for the public to report illegal websites.

The SBSM put 418 Chinese and world maps on its website for the public to check and download.

Last year, China issued a regulation restricting surveying and mapping by foreigners to protect national security.

It stipulated foreign organizations and individuals who intend to engage in surveying and mapping must obtain approval from the central government and accept supervision from local governments.