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Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

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“Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” Proves Effective in allowing the Public to Exercise Cultural Heritage Protection Rights

Currently the “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” has been effective for over one month. After a brief review of last month’s implementation, CHP believes that cultural heritage protection awareness continues to grow in contemporary Chinese society, and that NGOs have the capacity to drastically increase awareness among a diverse range of people.  CHP’s goal in assisting community residents to protect their own cultural heritage has been in the process of happening through the help of Chinese media powerhouses. To have Tianjin’s 600-year-old family dwellings legally recognized as a cultural heritage site, Mr. Wang Changshen and his seven relatives followed the guidelines listed in “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” and submitted their application to the authorities. If the application is successful, the cultural heritage value of the architecture located on Tianjin’s Old Lingdangge Street will also gain additional recognition. While reporting this issue, the local media included an instruction on how to submit an application as well as praising Wang’s family for taking the initiative to use this regulation.

Ms. Ceng Yizhi is another famous volunteer who devotes her time advocating for cultural heritage protection. After studying the “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics”, she created a list of Beijing historic sites that deserve to be protected and submitted applications to the related authorities. When reporting the story, The Beijing News, one of Beijing’s media powerhouses, quoted the Chairman of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Shan Jixiang as saying: “The implementation of the “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” is a substantial result of the establishment of a legal system for cultural heritage protection in China and is certain to have a tremendous influence for the country. We are seeing increasing reports in the media on the cultural relic verification applications submitted by the public.” Similarly, CHP has been receiving an increasing number of queries via our legal assistance hotline. CHP believes that the majority of applications will receive positive responses as this law clearly delineates the responsibility that the administrative department must uphold.

Of course, the implementation of “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” still faces obstacles. On October 16, Beijing Daily  published a piece written by Keluo stating: “It is very possible that this seemingly exciting new regulation, while  may seem improving at the first glance, are in reality void of any practical benefit.” The author doubted the effectiveness of the law, asking, “In the end, to what extent does calling on the public to proactively apply for cultural relic verification really have any meaning? Will this law really have an effect on cultural heritage protection or will it lead to needless consumption of many social production costs?” However, the author does not elaborate on how the new language should regulate “practical benefit.” We truly do not understand how “calling on the public to proactively apply for cultural relic verification” is not only bereft of meaning, but also “needlessly consumes social production costs”? How can it be that only the government and recognized experts have the right to speak on the issue of cultural relic verification, while the public is not qualified to even submit an application?

Lastly, on October 20, Zhang Pei, He Muren and five other residents of Beijing gathered to submit an application to recognize Liang Sicheng’s and Lin Huiyin’s former home as a cultural relic. The Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage unexpectedly chose to reject their application. The Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage’s actions clearly violates the law, and CHP proposes that Zhang Pei, He Muren, and the other filers of the application, abide by the regulations outlined in “Provisional Regulations Governing the Management of the Designation of Cultural Relics” and the “Law on Administrative Review” to petition the State Administration of Cultural Heritage to review their application.

CHP would like to thank our volunteer translator, Cheryl Mei-ting Schmitz, for her outstanding translation of this article.

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