China: About 40 cases of illegal geographic surveying involving foreign individuals or organisations have been investigated since 2006, some of which involved stealing military information that could threaten national security, according to China’s surveying and mapping administration.
The administration over the weekend disclosed the top 10 unlawful surveying cases in 2011, with a case involving a US citizen ranking first. It is the third consecutive list made since cases involving foreigners were included in the top 10 list.
The US citizen, who was not named, used two GPS receivers in August and collected more than 90,000 geographic coordinates near a military base in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region without permission from related departments, the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) said in a statement on its website.
The person, who registered with a travel agency to offer outdoor tour services to foreigners in Xinjiang, was fined 20,000 yuan (USD 3,170) in January, and all of his surveying equipment and results were confiscated by the Xinjiang surveying and mapping bureau.
“This kind of illegal survey results combined with satellite positioning data could seriously jeopardize national security, and in some situations, they could even be used for precise missile positioning,” Li Daguang, a military expert at the PLA National Defense University, told the Global Times.
Li said the coordinates, topography and geographic information of key areas are considered top secret, and if acquired by other countries, could be used to attack wartime targets.
There were similar cases involving foreigners in the past two years.
A Japanese citizen illegally carried out surveys in Tacheng, Xinjiang in 2010, and three German citizens used GPS receivers for mapping in Yichang, Hubei Province in 2009. Also that year, another Japanese citizen was found by the local surveying and mapping bureau in Fujian Province to have collected 195 geographic coordinates and marked heights above sea level at over 80 locations, according to the NASMG.
These illegal cases could be attributed to two reasons, said the statement. Foreign organisations or individuals are sometimes not familiar with China’s laws and regulations, and sometimes survey geographical information for business management and personal use. But some of them aim to steal the country’s geographic data to leak State secrets, bringing high risk to national security, according to the statement.
Li said the government needs to improve Chinese citizens’ awareness that geographic information is a State secret, and should pay high attention to all foreigners’ suspicious actions and report them in a timely manner to related departments, especially in key areas like Xinjiang.
Source: People’s Daily