Important Caution on Using a GPS in Beijing and the Rest of China

Beijing Travel Report Handheld GPS

Watch out if using GPS units in Beijing!

There is a Chinese law making the storing of geo-location coordinates by foreigners illegal in China.  If you plan to do any geocaching, or storing of coordinates of your favorite tourist locations, please be cautious.  Maybe even just forgo that idea all together.

There are various reports on the internet referring to this law, but the best seems to be a post in the Groundspeak forums that quotes from the South China Morning Post.  The text of the South China Morning Post’s report is quoted several places on the internet, so I am pretty sure it is legit.

The article is titled “Foreign GPS users risk arrest” and was from the 2009 time period.  I attempted to locate the article in the South China Morning Post, but could not get a successful search. It kept timing out.   For the full text as quoted at and the comments of Groundspeak users whom have used their gps in China, CLICK HERE.

Below is a portion of that text that is reported to be from the South China Morning Post:

Foreigners using GPS on the mainland risk being detained by police or national security agents if they suspect them of conducting illegal mapping.

“It’s better for [your] safety not to turn on the GPS function [on your cellphone],” a State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping official said.

Ok, that sounds pretty dire.  Some of the points that commenters made were that many Chinese cars now have gps function built in, and that the problem may be limited to those with something more sophisticated than the standard consumer level gps.

Read it for yourself.  Best to be aware of the issue before you go.  Using a gps in Beijing to store locations can land you in trouble.  Reader, stay out of Chinese jail.  I don’t think you will be able to access my blog from there, and that would be sad.

Share this and leave a comment.  Travelers should always be prudent, wherever they are.  Does this issue make you less likely to go to China?

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