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US citizen arrested for illegal mapping

US citizen arrested for illegal mapping

Updated: 2012-03-07 07:44

By Shao Wei (China Daily)

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Head of surveying bureau says maps are 'key to a country'

A citizen of the United States has been fined for illegal surveying activities in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the Xinjiang surveying and mapping bureau announced on Monday.

In August 2011, the bureau received a report from a local resident that a man was using a handheld GPS to collect geographic information and coordinates in an area near a People's Liberation Army headquarters in Manas county, Changji Hui autonomous prefecture.

According to the bureau, the US citizen came to Xinjiang from Beijing, allegedly to register a travel agency to offer outdoor tour services to foreigners in Urumqi, Changji and other places in Xinjiang.

The two GPS receivers that the man used in Xinjiang were both for professional surveying and mapping activities, and collected and archived more than 90,000 geographic coordinates of China's territory, with no permission from government surveying and mapping departments.

On Jan 31, the man was fined 20,000 yuan ($3,170) and the Xinjiang surveying and mapping bureau confiscated the surveying equipment and results.

"The man collected more than 40,000 geographic coordinates of Xinjiang, with the rest from other parts of China," said Zhang Qi, director of the bureau's law enforcement office.

Illegal surveying and mapping by foreigners in Xinjiang is "a threat to national defense and economic security", Liu Geqing, head of the bureau, told China Daily on Tuesday.

Xinjiang, which borders eight countries and is a key energy and resource base, should intensify the confidentiality of geographic data of "any key military and economic facilities" and crack down on illegal surveying and mapping, he said.

There are similar cases involving people from foreign countries every year, Liu added.

He said these illegal activities often tend to be under the guise of "scientific research, travel and economic cooperation".

"As our ancestors say, an atlas is the key to a country, which cannot be shown to others," Liu said, calling for the public, especially those working in foreign-related companies and organizations, to realize the significance of surveying and mapping work.

From 2005 to 2011, a total of 10 cases of foreign-related illegal surveying activities were investigated in Xinjiang.

In September 2005, two Japanese scholars illegally used GPS equipment to survey and map the coordinates of an airport and water facilities in Hotan in Xinjiang.

In March 2007, four Japanese scholars collected the coordinates of Aibi Lake, a salt lake in Xinjiang, without approval from the central government or supervision by the local government.

In July 2007, two illegal surveying cases, with six foreigners involved, were investigated in Hami prefecture and the Altun Mountain area of Xinjiang.

In September 2008, British citizens illegally collected geographic data in Aksu in Xinjiang.

In September 2009, another two cases, with 11 foreigners involved, were investigated by the regional bureau.

And in February and April 2010, two illegal surveying cases were investigated in Tacheng prefecture, Xinjiang.

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