Having the “Wrong” Map in China Could Land you in Jail

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In most places, having the right map can mean getting to the right destination on time. In China, it could mean avoiding a large fine or even jail time.

Starting next year, the government will enforce new laws governing the production and distribution of maps for both print and online.

Maps with content “that endangers the country’s sovereignty, safety, and interests” could get you in trouble with Chinese authorities, says government mapping official Le Weibin.

According to CCTV, violating these laws could result in owing a fine of up to $31,000. Businesses could also have their licenses suspended or revoked. The most serious offenders could be facing jail time.

The government also said it will be monitoring the map industry for “errors in compilation” and “leaks of secret geographic information and personal information.”

The laws also require online-mapping data to be hosted by servers inside the country. All GPS providers now would need cartography certificates to do business in the country.

These new regulations serve as another attempt by China to legitimize its often disputed territorial claims.

Beijing, for example, still views Taiwan as a breakaway province and it does not recognize its independence. China also claims virtually all of the South China Sea. Those claims are challenged by several countries including Vietnam and Taiwan. The Philippines even filed a lawsuit against China, which this year was heard by an international court in the Netherlands.

China’s proposed territory in the South China Sea is defined by the so-called “nine-dash line” which the government apparently devised in 1947.

“The dotted line of the South China Sea indicates the sovereignty of China over the islands in the South China Sea since ancient times and demonstrates the long-standing claims and jurisdiction practice over the waters of the South China Sea,” Chinese officials wrote in a statement to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.


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