Google alters name of disputed South China Sea reef

A screenshot of Google Maps taken on July 15  shows the disputed area, labeled as the Scarborough Shoal

Story highlights

  • Google says it has altered its map of a disputed reef in the South China Sea
  • Google changed the name after complaints from people living in the Philippines
  • Disputed area is now labeled the Scarborough Shoal on the map site

Hong Kong (CNN)Google says it has altered its map of a disputed reef in the South China Sea, removing its Chinese name in favor of what it says is its internationally recognized moniker.

Google changed the name to Scarborough Shoal after objections from people living in the Philippines. A petition posted on Change.org said Google Maps had identified the territory as part of China's Zhongsha Islands.
    The shoal, which Filipinos call Panatag, is part of a number of islands and reefs in the area being claimed by several countries, including the Philippines.
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    "We made the fix in line with our long-standing global policy on depicting disputed regions in a way that does not endorse or affirm the position taken by any side," a Google spokesperson said.
    The move has not gone down well with some Chinese Internet users.
    "My patriotic fellow countrymen, please check your phones and computers and uninstall the Google products, kicking Google out of China," said one user of Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter.
    It's also not the first time Google has embroiled itself in a territorial dispute.
    In 2010, a Nicaraguan general cited Google's version of the border map as a justification of a reported raid of a disputed area between that country and Costa Rica.

    Island building

    Last year, China stepped up land reclamation on several reefs in contested waters, alarming its Asian neighbors.
    The United States says that China has reclaimed some 2,000 acres -- 1,500 football fields -- in the past 18 months and has called for an "immediate and lasting" halt to the island building.
    On Tuesday, China urged the Philippines to abandon its attempt to resolve territorial disputes in South China Sea at an international tribunal. Instead, it said it wants direct negotiation.
    The Philippines had asked the tribunal in The Hague to declare most of China's claims to the South China Sea invalid, but China has refused to participate, saying it doesn't have jurisdiction.
    Operating under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, the tribunal on Monday finished a week-long hearing to address China's contention.