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History lovers race to protect city’s threatened buried past

The excavation site of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) Royal Palace in Fengtai district. Provided to China Daily

The excavation site of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) Royal Palace in Fengtai district. Provided to China Daily

China Daily by Qin Zhongwei, Thursday 30 September

A new law is being drafted to better protect the capital’s underground relics, according to a member of the city’s political consultative conference, which met to discuss the issue earlier this week.

“The current cultural relics protection regulations are mainly focused on the protection of relics above ground but gray areas exist when we talk about protecting those that are buried,” said Xu Wei, a member of the municipality’s political consultative conference and an attendee of Tuesday’s meeting.

“The key to solve the problem is through legislation.”

To that end, the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage (BMACH) has drafted a feasibility report that was presented at the meeting. The report will be updated after advice from experts is included.

According to Kong Fanzhi, the head of BMACH, there are many flaws in the current regulations that protect cultural relics.

One weakness is that large construction sites are required to carry out archaeological investigations before starting work but “large” is not defined.

Another difficulty is the fact that construction companies are required to pay for archaeological explorations before development projects, something that the developers do not support and that creates resistance, said Kong.

“And there is no punishment even if the developers do not cooperate and do the archaeological survey,” said Xu.

According to figures released in 2009, of the more than 4,000 construction projects launched in Beijing in 2008 and 2009, only 97 – just 2.3 percent – were the subject of thorough archaeological surveys before work started.

“No one can tell exactly what the real situation is regarding damage to Beijing’s underground relics,” said He Shuzhong, founder of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, during an earlier interview with METRO.

The first draft of the new regulations is likely to come out in 2011.

However, many members attending Tuesday’s meeting complained that the process of drafting regulations to protect relics was too slow when compared to the rapid development of the city’s construction industry.

“I hope the city can learn from the successful experience and methods from Luoyang, capital of Henan province,” Xu said. “That city has put into its regulations that, without the survey and approval from the cultural relics department, no construction project can begin.”

Read the original article.

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