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Tougher penalties mapped out to fight illegal surveys

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

08:54, October 23, 2012

Amendment to focus on foreigners gathering sensitive information

Foreigners carrying out illegal surveys, mapping without permission or marking the location of key facilities without authorization, will face tougher penalties amid measures to enhance security of strategic areas.

Tackling these activities, and the requisite punishment, is under discussion as authorities draft amendments to the National Surveying and Mapping Law.

According to the State Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geo-information, the amendments have been included in the State Council's work agenda for 2012.

Li Weibing, deputy director of legislation and industry management for the administration, said that he hopes the draft will be finished this year and the law will be implemented by 2017.

Almost 40 illegal surveying and mapping cases were detected between 2006 and 2011, mostly in border areas such as the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the administration said.

"Coordinates, topography and information regarding key areas and core facilities are top secret," Li said. "Once acquired by another country the information could be used to attack targets in wartime."

Li said the draft would consider criminal liability in cases where illegal surveys were carried out and endangered Chinese citizens.

The current law states that any foreign individual conducting an illegal survey will be deported and face a maximum fine of 500,000 yuan ($78,900).

In 2010, Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xue Feng, a geologist from the US, to eight years in prison and fined him 200,000 yuan for trying to buy data about the Chinese oil industry. He was charged with attempting to obtain and traffic State secrets.

The sentence showed the country's determination, legal experts said.

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