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Lawmaker Proposes Legislation to Protect Marine Cultural Relics
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Gao Xiang, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's parliament, has proposed the enacting of a law to protect the undersea cultural relics from rampant theft.

She said on the sidelines of the annual session of the Tenth NPC that the country's sea areas covering 4.73 million square kilometers are home to a huge number of cultural relics since numerous ships had capsized over the past thousands of years.

Despite government crackdown on relics theft and smuggling, an insatiable world market for ancient artifacts and the high prices paid by collectors have kept the underground trade booming, said Gao from China's southeastern province of Fujian.

Citing one case involving a sunken ship of ancient porcelain trade off the coast of Fujian, Gao said lots of local fishermen, professional divers and international smugglers have undergone illegal activities driven by lucrative profits.

"Relics robbers and smugglers have started to use high-speed motorboats and advanced diving equipment in their undersea relics theft," she said.

A law on protecting marine cultural relics would allow public security departments to give specific jail terms to the robbers and smugglers, a further move to deter widespread relic thefts, the NPC deputy said.

Gao also proposed to set up a joint leading group consisting of the departments of cultural heritage protection, public security, frontier and sea police forces to launch more coordinated and extensive crackdown on relics theft and smuggling.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2007)

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