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Beijing wages war to safeguard ancient courtyards
( 2003-08-19 11:24) (Agencies)

The Beijing municipal government has listed some 200 ancient courtyards as valuable relics for protection, and hung a "blue plate" over the gate of each courtyard in hopes of rescuing them from destruction. But quite a few city planners and developers have simply ignored them.

"Money talks here," said Huang Jianxin, a local entrepreneur. "So developers dare to do what they want. They gave us some compensation, but that pales when compared to the high profit theygain from the commercial housing to be erected here."

"It doesn't take a finance whiz to know that it is all a real estate scam," chipped in Huang's wife.

At East Yangmaying No. 17 courtyard in western Beijing, Li Changlin, a retired public servant, was compelled to move out but still worried about the future of his courtyard.

"I will leave, but I hope they can keep the house," he said. "This courtyard has a history of over 300 years. It is so well structured and remains intact, with everything from screen walls to corridors. Even the tile was made of fine mud mixed with sesameoil."

Some real estate developers claimed that their projects are component part of the efforts for Beijing to prepare for the 2008 Olympics. But many do not agree.

"We can't afford to lose these. Then what will we have left by 2008?" said Li's wife. "With a bunch of high-rise skyscrapers, howcan we say to the world that Beijing is a capital with ancient civilization?"

Hua Xinmin, a Chinese-French, shares many Chinese people's commitment for the rescue of Beijing folk relics.

"This year is tough for Chinese siheyuan. The destruction bearswitness to a complete disrespect for beauty. I could not help weeping when seeing the bulldozers working in the alleyways," she said.

Students from the Beijing No. 4 high school wrote in a public letter that "we might turn out to be the last generation to witness the original Beijing. We hate to tell our children about Beijing's Hutongs (alleyways) and siheyuans by showing them aroundin a museum or a photograph exhibition."

The Beijing municipal government has become aware that more government substantial efforts are required to guard the ancient treasures of the city.

Official sources told Xinhua that a revised plan for the inner city will be worked out shortly and those who continue to disregard protection measures will be penalized.

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