The number of overseas organizations and individuals conducting illegal surveys in China is increasing, threatening to reveal State secrets and jeopardizing national security, Beijing-based Global Times reported yesterday.
The newspaper warned many Chinese mistakenly believe that geographic information is not secret because satellites are commonly used to gather such information.
But unidentified experts were quoted as saying that coordinates, topography and geologic information of key areas and core facilities are still top secret.
Once acquired by other countries, the information could be used to attack wartime targets, the experts warned.
In recent years, overseas organizations have used the prevailing thinking to conduct illegal surveys.
Some have directly asked for geographic information, taking advantage of local governments' eagerness to attract foreign investment. Others are using the cover of setting up joint ventures and cooperative projects.
In April and May, two Taiwanese were prosecuted for drawing highly classified maps of the Chinese mainland, which they sold overseas.
Investigation showed they had been opening joint ventures in mainland cities since 2000 to "develop and promote Global Positioning System (GPS) products used on vehicles".
In each city, they collected local electronic maps, and conducted field surveys in areas of interest. The maps they drew included a large amount of top-secret information about public security facilities, economic lifelines and military facilities.
In another case, a foreign map company with strong government connections was found to have illegally surveyed 56 cities in 10 provinces. The surveys were conducted through a joint venture set up in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province.
The joint venture's survey team was caught in May 2004 when it entered a military area in coastal Shandong Province. Later investigation found the company's survey team had previously broken into military areas in Shanghai and Fujian Province.
Their surveys included accurate positioning of Chinese armies and detailed information on communication facilities in East and South China.
The report added that some foreign diplomats are also involved in unlawful surveys.
In April, a foreign diplomat with military background, who was originally from Taiwan, was caught carrying out illegal surveys in Guizhou Province in Southwest China. The supposed purpose was in support of a local AIDS control and prevention project.
(China Daily July 18, 2007)