Saturday, February 09, 2013

Story of 2007 Chinese detention of ASU researchers over use of GPS and topo maps

Science magazine reports on a situation in the fall of 2007 when ASU geoscientist Ramon Arrowsmith and his research team in China were intercepted coming in from the field and were  "grilled for a week, during which they made frantic efforts to sort things out with colleagues in Beijing. The researchers were never charged with a crime, but their data and equipment were seized."

Ramon, with US and Chinese colleagues, had been working in "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's Altun Mountain Nature Reserve, near Tibet, mapping landforms to trace how earthquakes move along the Altyn Tagh fault."    [Right, Altyn Tagh fault.  Credit, Ramon Arrowsmith, ASU]

Their crime? -  "a few months earlier, China's Ministry of Land and Resources had issued a decree forbidding foreigners from using some methods of gathering topographic data."  They had GPS equipment and 1;100K topo maps. 

The article examines growing restrictions and tightening secrecy laws aimed at researchers or anyone mapping data.

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