US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola is “co-operating fully” with Chinese authorities on allegations that it illegally mapped part of a southwestern province as part of its distribution operations, it said on Wednesday.
Coca-Cola was found to have “illegally collected classified information with handheld GPS equipment”, yunnan.cn , a news portal run by party officials in Yunnan province, said last month, citing a provincial mapping bureau.
The report did not provide further details on the case.
Coca-Cola said that its local bottling plants in China have used electronic mapping and other techniques as part of their logistics activities, but added that all the systems they used were freely available.
“Over the last several years, some of our local bottling plants in China have adopted logistics solutions to improve our customer service levels and fuel efficiency,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson in China said in a statement.
“These include e-map and location-based customer logistics systems that are commercially available in China through authorised local suppliers.”
The plants had cooperated with local authorities “to ensure that our customer logistics systems are in full compliance with current regulations”, said the spokesperson.
An official with the Yunnan Geographical Information Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, who declined to be named, said that provincial authorities were not allowed to comment on the matter because it “involved state secrets”.
But he acknowledged that representatives of Coca-Cola’s Yunnan plant were in contact with the bureau.
The mapping allegations come as China and the United States are embroiled in a row over cyber attacks.
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on Monday urged China to probe and halt cybercrime, after lawmakers called for stiffer action against Beijing for cyber-spying and the massive theft of US industrial secrets, allegedly by the Chinese military.
China has called such charges “groundless”, and state media have accused Washington of making a scapegoat of Beijing to deflect attention from US economic woes.