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Bells sounds for protection of Drum Tower

China Daily by Qin Zhongwei, Thursday 8 April

An NGO is asking for a government plan to spice up the Drum and Bell Tower to be publicly approved before construction begins.

The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) issued a statement on Tuesday calling for the replacement of a governmental redevelopment plan that affects the Drum and Bell Tower, after a recent forum to protect the historic monument was cancelled at the last minute.

According to the CHP, a government investment of 5 billion yuan was earmarked to convert 12.5 hectares of land, both above and below ground, into a “Beijing Time Cultural City” that included a shopping mall and museum.

The CHP was scheduled to hold a public forum on March 27, which was planned to allow citizens and experts the chance to exchange opinions about the plan. However, it was cancelled at the last moment without reason. Police were patrolling the venue.

The NGO suggested in its statement that the Dongcheng district government, where the tower is located, should cancel its current plan and use the money to establish a preservation and protection program of the community instead of changing the face of “one of the last unspoiled quarters of traditional Beijing”.

“We know the government wants to invest the money to improve the image of the area and improve citizens’ lives, but a big investment plan involving huge relocation and demolition is not the right approach to protect or preserve our cultural heritage,” it said.

Their suggested alternative plan would improve the living conditions of citizens and also preserve the flavor of the ancient city, it said.

By issuing the statement, the center hoped “the Drum and Bell Tower and the citizens living nearby could keep their dignity.”

He Shuzhong, founder and chairman of CHP, told METRO on Wednesday they have outlined their main points in the statement so there is no need to hold a second meeting.

As of the time of press, the CHP had not received an official response, He said.

According to a report from China Culture Paper on April 2, a staff member from the local government said that the tower would not be demolished in their plan, but would not reveal details about the controversial “Beijing Time Cultural City”.

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