The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has issued a notice urging local authorities to make extra efforts to protect historic buildings and refrain from "rebuilding" destroyed relics. Beijing News commented on Sunday:
The latest notice makes clear historic buildings, regardless of their previous ownership and use, although not "cultural relics", are still under the protection of local governments.
The clarification is part of a response to the dilemma facing many such buildings, which are either under poor protection or subject to unauthorized rectification even demolition since they are not protected cultural relics.
A historic building in downtown Shanghai was demolished in June after it was sold for about 80 million yuan ( million) two years ago. The old building, which was built in the 1930s, was under municipal protection and only internal renovation was permitted. The local government has already investigated the case and meted out punishment to the new owner, who promised to rebuild the building as it was.
That should be a wake-up call to local governments that all historic buildings must be registered and placed under government protection. Also praiseworthy in the notice is the proposal to cool down the rebuilding craze. Rather than taking care of the existing historic buildings, some local governments are keen to "recreate" lost cultural relics like ancient towns and historic buildings, which has little to do with protecting them.
Both the flawed protection of historic buildings and the unfathomable recreation of ancient ones are a result of utilitarian governance, practiced by those who care little about cultural preservation but rather the political dividends of doing so. Many aged buildings are still in use, which is all the more reason to strike a balance between protection and inhabitability.