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Kaifeng to restore historical image

Updated: 2012-08-13 01:16
By AN BAIJIE ( China Daily)

The local government in Kaifeng, an ancient city in Central China’s Henan province, plans to restore the city’s historical appearance of its downtown.

The city was the capital of seven dynasties, including the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), when China’s economy boomed and society thrived.

To restore the city’s historical outlook of its peak period in the Northern Song Dynasty, the government plans to reconstruct some ancient buildings in the downtown area. The project will require more than 34,000 families to move from their homes by the end of the year, Wang Xuejie, vice-mayor of Kaifeng, said in a report released on the city government’s official website on Saturday.

The project aims to boost the ancient city’s tourism industry and exhibit the prosperity of the Northern Song Dynasty, Qi Jinli, Party secretary of Kaifeng, said in early January, according to the government’s website.

To make room for the development, the local government plans to demolish 5.8 million square meters of old buildings in the next four years, Qi told the Henan provincial radio station in a program on June 28.

The blueprint of the reconstruction project shows that the new buildings will be built in the style of the Northern Song Dynasty, and even road signs on the streets will “reflect the character of the Northern Song Dynasty”, according to a report in China Business Journal.

A total of 80,000 families, making up nearly a third of the city’s population, will have to move out of the downtown region in the next four years, the report said.

The demolition and relocation will cost at least 100 billion yuan ($15.7 billion). The city’s financial revenue was just 5 billion yuan last year, according to the report.

Kong Xiangcheng, deputy chief of the Kaifeng bureau of housing and urban-rural development, said that the project was “very difficult” and the local government had “made preparations” for the upcoming difficulties, the report said.

The local government signed a contract on Thursday with the China Construction Bank Henan branch, in which the bank promised to provide a 15 billion yuan loan to the government within three to five years, according to the Kaifeng city government’s official website.

Li Tao, a worker at Longting Park whose 133-square-meter house is slated to be demolished, claimed 600,000 yuan in compensation, but the local government insisted on paying him only 274,030 yuan, according to a provincial news media.

The local government required the park’s administrator — the bureau of cultural heritage and parks — to persuade Li to accept the compensation deal, according to a notice published on the Kaifeng Daily on Tuesday.

The notice required seven bureaus and departments, including the public security bureau and the transport bureau to persuade some of their employees to accept the government’s compensation deal for the demolition of their houses.

Vice-mayor Wang said on Friday that the government had acquired more than 626,000 square meters of residents’ houses for the construction projects by late July, according to the report on the government’s website.

An official from the Kaifeng city government told People’s Daily on Sunday that the cost of the project was an estimate, and the local government would try to attract both enterprises and individuals to invest in the project.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied China Business Journal’s report that residents were forced to move out, saying that the project benefited local people, who could now move into better houses.

The project was met with fierce criticism by netizens on micro blogs on Sunday after it was reported by news media. Many people questioned whether the local government could afford the cost and whether local residents would benefit from the project.

Fan Lei, 35, an employee at the local taxation bureau, said he has embraced the government’s ambitious project because it will make his hometown more beautiful. But he also worries the project might be discarded with half-completed buildings due to money problems.

“What I care for most is the housing issue — whether the compensation for demolished houses will meet residents’ demand and whether the newly built houses would be comfortable to live in,” he told China Daily on Sunday.

Liu Hua in Zhengzhou contributed to this story.