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

Google Maps no longer refers to the 'Zhongsha Islands' following complaints from Filipinos

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The Independent Online

Google has altered its map of a disputed reef in the South China Sea, removing its Chinese name in favour of its internationally recognised moniker following complaints from people living in the Philippines.

Google Maps now refers to the reef, which is claimed by both countries, solely as Scarborough Shoal, rather than also naming it as part of the Zhongsha Islands.

It comes after hundreds of Filipinos signed a petition calling on Google to remove the Chinese name, claiming China’s territorial claim is illegal and “a territory grab that peace loving nations should stand against”.

Google appears to have made the change this week after the petition was launched on Change.org on Sunday.

The tiny triangle-shaped shoal, which has a perimeter of 29 miles, was the subject of a stand-off between boats from China and the Philippines lasting several weeks.

The Philippines, which refers to the reef as Panatag Shoal, has filed a case against China, which refers to it as Huangyan Island. But Beijing is not obliged to abide by its rulings and has refused to take part in a hearing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The rich fishing area is around 500 miles south of China, and 100 miles west of the Philippines.

China claims ownership of large parts of the South China Sea and is also in territorial disputes with with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that China "will never accept the unilateral attempts to turn to a third party to solve the disputes", and urged the Philippines to negotiate with China directly.

A spokeswoman for Google said: "We try to keep our place names as up-to-date and as relevant as possible."

The BBC quoted a separate Google statement which said: "We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention.”

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