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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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How to Oppose the APP Yunnan Project

In our last update we discussed how the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) project of planting eucalyptus plantations in Yunnan will doom the rich ethnic cultures of the region. To oppose this terrible project, we propose three tactics:
The first is to call upon everyone to cease buying APP’s products. APP manufactures paper products, with the brands Asia Pulp and Paper and APP, on sale throughout China. We should use every channel of communication to let consumers know that APP’s ill-gotten wealth is accumulated at the expense of destroying the natural environment and cultural heritage. To buy APP’s products is to support the destructive activities of APP. Government entities, educational institutions, the media, hotels and restaurants are the big consumers of paper products, so we propose writing to the managers and procurement officers of these institutions to ask them to boycott APP products. We should also write to commercial associations, urging them to also boycott APP products.
The second is to rally as many people and organizations as possible to put pressure on the Yunnan provincial authorities to cease their cooperation with APP. Without the support and approval of the Yunnan government, the APP project cannot go forward. We should lobby the Yunnan provincial government, the Yunnan Development and Reform Commission, the Yunnan Forestry Bureau, the Yunnan Economic Commission to demand that they cease support and approval of the project. At the same time, we should lobby the Ethnic Minorities Commission, the Labor Commission, the Soil Resources Bureau, The Cultural Affairs Bureau, the Environmental Protection Bureau, and the Provincial Tourism Authority to do something concrete to stop the project. Corrupt officials are the same as avaricious businessmen—timid and anxious to please foreigners, so any international organizations or financial institutions working in Yunnan can play an important positive role.
The third route is to bring legal action. The APP eucalyptus plantation project in Yunnan violates the law in several areas. According to the 32nd clause of the Forestry Act, the harvesting of trees from a forest must be authorized by permit, and conducted within the limits authorized by the permit. But APP has been felling trees without permit in many places. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, an environmental impact assessment should be conducted on the project, and there must be provisions for mitigating or preventing any negative environmental consequences of a project. Such environmental impact assessment has not been conducted on the APP project, so the project should be immediately halted. Due to the illegal cutting, and to the lack of action on the part of the authorities, forest resources have been destroyed, the ecology and ethnic culture have been damaged, and the rights and livelihood of the people in the area have been violated. In bringing suit, the initiators should be those people and legal entities whose rights have been violated, and the accused should be the legal representative of the project, plus all Yunnan provincial government organizations that have had a hand in it. The action can be brought in the Yunnan courts.
The Communist Party and the government of China stress that China must pursue a road of sustainable development, and that the country must strengthen the use of the rule of law in the governance and administration of the country. That is an entirely correct policy that receives the enthusiastic support of the entire people of the country. The three methods we propose for opposing the APP project are designed to protect the rich ethnic cultures of the people of Yunnan and also to support the rule of law policies of the Communist Party and the government of China.

Eucalyptus Plantations: the Threat to Yunnanese Ethnic Groups

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is one of the world’s largest producers of pulp and paper. According to Friends of the Earth’s website, this Indonesian company “is responsible for destroying a large area of Indonesia’s rainforest.” Since August of 2002, with the support of some departments of the provincial government, APP has taken control of 27.5 million mu of land in Wen Shan, Lin Cang, and Si Mao districts of the province and used the land to start eucalyptus plantations for use in the first stage of its integrated pulp and paper operations.
We believe that if this APP project is not stopped, not only will there be clear deterioration in the natural environment, but the richness of southern Yunnan’s minority group ethnic group cultures will remain in name only.
Southern Yunnan is an area of concentration for minority groups. Their way of life and culture are inextricably tied up with the forests and streams of their habitat. When the Dai people describe their villages, they often emphasize “In the front of the village we fish, behind the village we hunt, so we build our villages facing water with hills behind us”. The sacred trees in the distant peaks are their spiritual refuge; their favorite delicacies are plucked from the forests and streams; the mountain streams flow into village ponds in which the villagers bathe and wash their clothes, exchange gossip, and pass on the stories of their forebears. Fast flowing streams surround the villages, the elders exchange courteous greetings, and  the cries of children at play mix with the clip-clop of the oxen hoofs on the stone flagging of the village streets—thus life passes tranquilly and peacefully in the villages of the mountain valleys.
Each village is a culture unto itself. The large and small villages of the minority peoples are scattered about the mountains of southern Yunnan and their lives are in harmony with the primeval forests where waterfalls, connected one to the next by clear streams, are accent to the landscape, forming one of the most gorgeous cultural landscapes in the world.
From the perspective of preserving minority cultures, the APP eucalyptus plantation project is wrong for at least two reasons. First, eucalyptus is a fast growing imported species, with a history of planting in China of less than 120 years. The principal characteristic of eucalyptus is that it has an extraordinary capacity to consume the fertility and moisture content of the soil in which it grows. Experts compare a eucalyptus tree to a water pump; eucalyptus trees do not coexist with streams.
Second, the eucalyptus plantation plan covers a huge area: in Wen Shan Prefecture, 5.5 million mu, in Lin Cang 10 million mu, and in Si Mao Township 12 million mu. APP considers the land that is to be used for the plantations to be hilltop waste land. The mountains that have given rise to one of the world’s loveliest cultural landscapes is waste land in the eyes of APP! This land is to be stripped of its spirit, and its trees are to be consigned to the soulless timber factories. The streams will dry up, the forests will disappear and the villages, now so full of life, will face death while their inhabitants, now rendered poor and without hope, will have no choice but to become environmental refugees.
With the ever increasing speed of urbanization, and the accompanying destruction of forest resources, the number of villages of the minority groups in southern Yunnan has already greatly decreased, and many unique cultural traditions have already vanished. At this time, the Chinese Communist Party and the government of China have clearly recognized that economic development must rest on a foundation of environmental conservation and cultural heritage preservation, and they have clearly put forward a policy of “advance on a sustainable path of development”.
The wealth of flow from APP’s plantation project is ill-gotten gains, acquired at the expense of destruction of the environment and destruction of cultural heritage. A small group of people in Yunnan have conspired with this Indonesian pulp and paper behemoth to seek financial gains at the expense of the common good. We hope that everyone will resist this plantation project, and will exhaust every remedy to exhort those few Chinese in Yunnan to cease abetting this foreign company in carrying out its destructive activities.
We also propose that everyone demonstrate wisdom in assisting minority peoples to build prosperous lives in their villages, so that they do not become environmental refugees adding to the flow of immigrants into China’s already over-packed cities. Each village has its own indigenous handicrafts. If only we would help them to package and market these handicrafts, the protection and promotion of indigenous cultures can be a basis for village economic development.
Note: one mu equals 1/15 hectares

Slow and Steady Wins the Games

Among the many projects being implemented to build “New Beijing, Great Olympic” for the hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games, the Beijing government has adopted a “Plan of Cultural Relic Preservation for the Olympic Games”.  Municipal funding has been increased for cultural relic preservation. The attention being accorded to cultural heritage protection is of course to be welcomed, and CHP supports the plan in general terms.  But when we look at the plan in greater detail, we fear that the ill-considered haste with which it is to be implemented could result in permanent and needless damage.
What does the Cultural Relic Preservation Plan consist of, and wherein do we perceive the dangers to lie?  The Plan focuses on renovating the views of the “Two Axes,” restore the appearance of the “Five Districts,” and to rebuild the “Six Scenic Sites.”
The “Two Axes” refers to the two lines on which imperial Beijing was laid out in the Ming Dynasty by the Yong Le Emperor: one north-south and one east-west.  The Central Axial Line, along which the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City are situated, runs through the city center. The second axis, the Chaoyang-Fucheng Line, runs from Chaoyang Gate in the east straight across the old Ming-Qing City to the Fucheng Gate in the west.
The “Five Districts” are the architecture and scenery surrounding the Shi Sha Hai Lake, a replica of the traditional Chinese gardens, pavilions, and corridors; the Guo Zi Jian, or  Capital Library, a former haven for Confucian students and scholars preparing for the imperial examinations; the Liu Li Chang commercial center, a street lined with ancient style bookshops and antique stores; the Imperial City, containing within it the Forbidden City and Tiananmen; and the Drum and Bell Towers, which are the center of a conserved area of ancient hutongs and traditional courtyard houses.
The “Six Scenic Sites” refer to the Western Scenic Area; the Beijing Sector of the Great Wall; the Imperial Tombs preservation area; the remains of the ancient canal culture in Tongzhou district; the Wanping historical relic preservation section, where the Marco Polo Bridge is located; and the temples of the western suburban area of Beijing. 
Though CHP supports the increased attention and funding that cultural heritage protection projects are receiving, we believe that racing to meet a 2008 deadline for completion of these projects will ultimately prove to be more damaging than beneficial to many of the historical sites.  The number and magnitude of restoration projects that the Beijing government has proposed cannot be properly undertaken in such a limited amount of time.  The process of restoration takes time. It requires several years of initial surveys, research, and investigation.  In addition, Chinese laws states: “In the repairing, maintaining and removing of immovable cultural relics, the principle of keeping the cultural relics in their original state shall be adhered to.”  (Law of the People’s Republic of China on Protection of Cultural Relics, Article 21) Similarly, generally accepted best international practice discourages hasty and superficial repair of ancient relics.   
We note in the Cultural Relic Preservation Plan the use of the words zhengzhi and chongxian. These two words are difficult to explain in English, but both give a sense of improving upon the past, doing something better than the original: zhengzhi would be a bit like giving a facelift to a site, while chongxian really implies rebuilding (and not always rebuilding the same as the original that was replaced). These words we feel are not appropriate for a well conceived historical preservation project, and do not accord with best international conservation practice.
On the cultural heritage side of preparations for the 2004 Olympics Games, the Greek government set an excellent example of how to undertake restoration work. It did not insist on the early completion of the Acropolis restoration project, but instead allowed qualified experts sufficient time to study and survey the site, refine project planning, and accurately document project progress.  Had the Greek government forced premature completion of the project, the Acropolis, a priceless cultural heritage site, would have suffered irreparable damage and much of its authentic cultural history would have been lost.  The resulting success of the Acropolis restoration project generated awareness among both residents and visitors of not only the importance of cultural heritage protection itself, but also of the meticulous process that cultural heritage protection requires.  
CHP recommends that increased funding for cultural relic preservation and protection in Beijing be accompanied by strictly abiding by the relevant laws, rules, and regulations concerning heritage restoration so that the task can be undertaken in a totally professional manner.  We strongly advocate that the “Plan of Cultural Relic Preservation for the Olympic Games” be revised according to Getty Institute’s “Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China”:  Some of the projects may not be completed, but Beijing will be seen by all the visitors who come to the city in 2008 and subsequent years to be setting the same high standards of historical and cultural conservation that were set in the previous Olympics by Athens.
In future CHP Updates, we will take a closer look at the details of some of these projects.
(Translated by D. Chu)

Does the Great Wall of China still exist?

The Great Wall of China assuredly does exist. It serves as a figure of both strength and beauty, quietly resting between the mountains with pride.  Last weekend, we visited and studied two sites of the remains of the Great Wall in the Hebei province.  Though we are not Great Wall specialists, we recognize that these remains still retain all the characteristics that have been imprinted in the minds of the people throughout the world.

However, the Great Wall should be ten thousand li (5000 km) long, winding through the mountains and deserts of China.  Despite numerous scars over its body, the Great Wall perseveres and continues to stretch onwards.  This is a kind of unyielding spirit, a spirit that is of indispensable value to mankind, which is the reason UNESCO lists the Great Wall as a World Heritage Site.  Yet the question remains, does the Great Wall of China really still exist?

Many sections of the Great Wall are being mindlessly destroyed at will. As tractors and heavy machines roar along, highways cut through the heart of the Great Wall.  Its parts have become the flooring of animal pens, the foundations of amusement parks, and the basis of commercial markets.  Loud speakers broadcast the cacophonous chatter, laughter, and quarreling of visiting tourists and customers.  The ancient walls are used as shelves for merchandise.  Some people have even gone so far as remodeling parts of the Wall with doors and windows made of aluminum alloy and white ceramic bricks, giving it a striking resemblance to a garishly tiled bathroom.

These are the reasons that lead us to believe that the Great Wall no longer exists in the minds of the people.  If we do not take special precautions to protect the Great Wall, it will undoubtedly be destroyed before long.

At the time the Great Wall of China was listed as a World Heritage Site, the Chinese government promised the international community that China would do everything in its capacity to protect the Great Wall.  To fulfill this promise and to establish an honest and trustworthy society, let us begin by preserving the precious remnants of the Great Wall.

CHP has stopped numerous commercial activities and dangerous sporting events that threaten the preservation of the Wall.  The Chinese government has already taken steps prohibiting such destructive activities in the past few years.  We encourage citizens and visitors alike to not participate in events on the Great Wall that do not contribute to its preservation.  If you have any information regarding these illegal activities, you should contact the police or CHP immediately.

(Translated by D. Chu)

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