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China’s customs seize export maps which did not depict its illegal ‘nine-dash line’

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug15’22) – The claim being made and sought to be enforced by China has no legal basis and in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled it as unlawful under international law. Nevertheless, on Aug 14, Customs officials in China’s eastern Zhejiang province have seized thousands of maps intended for export because the national borders depicted in them did not conform to territorial claims made by the Chinese government in the South China and East China seas.

Ningbo city customs authorities said the two batches of “problematic maps”, numbering 23,500 in all, omitted the nine-dash line covering Beijing’s vast claims in the South China Sea that extend as far as 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the Chinese mainland, reported the scmp.com Aug 14.

The maps were also alleged to have failed to include contested island chains claimed by China, such as the Spratlys and the Paracels in the South China Sea, as well as the uninhabited East China Sea islands called the Diaoyus – claimed by Japan as the Senkaku.

For years, Beijing has cracked down on “problematic maps” that it deems to “endanger sovereignty, national reunification, territorial integrity, national security and interests”, the report noted. It cited China’s natural resources ministry, the state map regulator, as saying omitting disputed territories and the nine-dash line were typical characteristics of problematic maps.

But the fact remains that the nine-dash line was ruled unlawful under international law by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in a 2016 ruling, which Beijing refused to take part in and has refused to recognise.

Beijing asserts its maritime expansionist agendas in the South China Sea by the display of its military might and by exercising belligerence against the smaller island countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and self-administered island nation Taiwan which it considers part of PRC, noted the republicworld.com Aug 15. 

To these countries, this is an “illegal Chinese nine-dash line.”

Under the nine-dash line assertion, China lays sovereign maritime claims on 90% of the South China Sea based on the U-shaped nine-dash line that was demarcated on the map in the 1940s by a Chinese geographer.

China has remained firm about how its territorial claims are presented, even by private companies headquartered outside the mainland, the report noted, forcing companies to make amends to be able to continue to do business in the country.

China’s mapping laws require maps, and products showing a map, to go through vetting by the Ministry of Natural Resources during export. Maps intended to be published or shown outside mainland China also need to be vetted. There have been numerous instances in recent years of seizures of maps intended for export for failing to comply with this requirement.

The scmp.com report noted that customs in Chongqing in southwestern China also recently seized stylised world maps for having “violated the one-China principle”, referring to Beijing’s position that there is but one China under the sole lawful government in Beijing and self-governed Taiwan is a part of that China.

In 2018, American clothing retailer Gap apologised to Beijing for selling T-shirts adorned with a Chinese map without Taiwan and its claimed South China Sea islands.

Beijing also set a deadline for foreign airlines to change their references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau so that they are not represented as independent countries, the report said.

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