Google Maps removes Chinese name for disputed South China Sea reef Scarborough Shoals

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Google Maps shows the name Scarborough Shoal for the disputed island Photo: Google Maps

Google drops Chinese name from Maps after South China Sea controversy

Following pressure from the Philippines, Google redacts the Chinese name for the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

Google has removed the Chinese name for a disputed shoal in the South China Sea from its Maps service, following protests from Philippine citizens.

Google Maps English service on Tuesday corrected the labeling of the atoll to read Scarborough Shoal, the internationally neutral term for the territory claimed by both the Philippines and China.

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Chinese protesters in Los Angeles, part of an escalating territorial dispute over the Huangyan Island, the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal (Alamy)- image: The Telegraph

The move came after more than 2,000 people signed an online petition on Change.org asking for Google to stop identifying the shoal as part of China’s Zhongsha Island chain.

“We’ve updated Google Maps to fix the issue. We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention,” Google’s office in Manila said in a statement.

In 2012, China and the Philippines engaged in a standoff at Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground, after a Philippine warship attempted to expel Chinese fishing boats in the area. China has controlled the shoal since, though it is some 650 km away from Hainan island, the nearest major Chinese landmass.

China bases its claim to the area on its “nine-dash line”, a demarcation based on historical records that decrees almost the entire to South China Sea as Chinese territory.

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A Filipino holds a sign during a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Los Angeles (Alamy) - image: The Telegraph

The Philippines claims the shoal as part of its exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“China’s sweeping claim of South China Sea under their nine-dash line purportedly historical boundary is illegal and is creating tension among nations,” the petition read.

“Google maps showing this is part of Zhongsha island chain gives credence to what is plainly a territory grab that peace loving nations should stand against.”

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Construction at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the south China Sea by China (EPA) -image: The Telegraph

The kerfuffle comes at a moment when tension between China and the Philippines over South China Sea territory is high, following months of rapid and dramatic land reclamation work by China on the Spratly Islands, another disputed archipelago.

Last week the Philippines launched a case in the Permanent Court of Attribution in The Hague in an attempt to prove that China’s “nine-dash line” claim is incompatible with UNCLOS. - Source: The Telegraph

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