Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have duty to pro­tect cul­tural her­itage

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - THE COM­POUND sur­round­ing

Dayun Tem­ple in Shangluo, North­west China’s Shaanxi prov­ince, has been en­croached upon by the con­struc­tion of a new devel­op­ment. This has caused dam­age to sev­eral relics in­clud­ing an an­cient mul­berry tree and four houses built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644). Beijing News com­mented on Satur­day:

The con­struc­tion work en­dan­ger­ing a cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal site on the pro­vin­cial cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion list stopped when the Shangluo mu­seum pub­lished an open let­ter call­ing for of­fi­cial in­ter­ven­tion. How­ever, dam­age had al­ready been done to the tem­ple, which has a his­tory of more than 600 years: An old tree and a dec­o­rated arch­way were re­lo­cated and four houses torn down. There are also cracks in the walls and gates.

It is re­gret­table that de­spite years of strug­gle be­tween the cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion au­thor­i­ties and city plan­ning of­fi­cials, the “ur­ban ren­o­va­tion pro­ject” went on undis­turbed even though it in­fringed upon ar­eas un­der pro­tec­tion. When it comes to con­struc­tion work near valu­able cul­tural her­itage, the ur­ban man­agers should be very care­ful to en­sure no ir­re­versible dam­age is done.

Ac­cord­ing to China’s Law on Pro­tec­tion of Cul­tural Relics, the con­struc­tion of per­ma­nent build­ings within 50 me­ters of a pro­tected build­ing or site can­not pro­ceed un­less it has ap­proval from the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage. How­ever, in the name of ren­o­va­tion, the prop­erty de­vel­oper em­ployed sev­eral tricks to by­pass the 50-me­ter re­stric­tion and man­aged to do so “thanks to” the ac­qui­es­cence of the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

The real es­tate de­vel­oper’s bold­ness lies in the fact that the Shangluo gov­ern­ment sup­ported the pro­ject as part of the city’s ren­o­va­tion pro­gram. Such a lack of re­spect for the rule of law has dealt a se­ri­ous blow to the gov­ern­ment’s im­age as well as the preser­va­tion of the Dayun Tem­ple, and it high­lights the need to crack down on all mis­be­hav­ing of­fi­cials.

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