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China Passes a New Law To Improve Management of World Heritage

In the two decades since China signed the UNESCO World Heritage Treaty in 1985, it has given great attention to nominating Chinese sites as World Heritage Sites. To date, with 24 World Heritage Cultural Sites and 4 combined Natural and Cultural Sites, China ranks third in the world – behind Italy and Spain. This has enhanced national pride, and has also been beneficial to economies around the sites through tourism.

But successful nomination of World Heritage Sites is one thing, and properly managing them as required by the terms of the UNESCO treaty to which China is a signatory is another. China had not passed into law the regulations and standards that are needed to implement the UNESCO World Heritage Site management requirements properly. The sad result has been that some Chinese World Heritage Sites have not been properly managed, with uncontrolled growth of commerce and new construction within and around the sites. Some of the sites have consequently lost some of their authenticity and integrity.

In order to correct this problem of giving priority to nominating sites while neglecting the management of approved sites, the Chinese government recently passed the “World Heritage Protection and Management Law”. This law clarifies the organizations responsible for looking after sites, puts in place a system for requiring proper expert consultation on any major Heritage Site matters, and establishes a system for monitoring and inspecting the condition of the World Heritage Sites.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) will oversee these systems. It is SACH’s responsiblity to place  sites that are in danger of losing their authenticity or integrity, through misuse or mismanagement, on a list of “Probation Status World Heritage Sites in China”. SACH will also instruct provincial governments where the sites are to take action within a specific timeframe to address the problems at the sites.

From the public’s point of view, this new law not only helps monitor the effectiveness of protecting World Heritage Sites, but it also provides concrete means for members of the public to become involved in the protection of the sites. For example, it provides for provincial level units of the SACH to establish a system for volunteer organizations to be formed to monitor the sites, and to provide these organizations with training and guidance.

To see details of the law, please check http://www.sach.gov.cn/publishcenter/sach/calltopic/11402.aspx

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