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Hutong Residents Strike Back
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Protests continue over the possible demolition of Beijing’s ancient Dongsi Batiao Hutong with one resident submitting an application to local authorities on Tuesday petitioning to have residents be made direct shareholders, thus arming them with the right to decide the fate of their hutong. 


"The authority told me I will be informed within five days if my request has been accepted or not," she said. However, she added that according to China's law of administrative reconsideration, all parties concerned by such a planning decision should be fully informed beforehand and given ample opportunity to demand a hearing to lay out their interests, the Beijing News reported yesterday.


She revealed that since her house is privately-owned, she is able to renovate it and maintain its original style in accordance with rules laid down by the cultural heritage authority. Furthermore, she has no need or desire to sell off her house to a real estate company and see it bulldozed in the name of property development.


As recently as 2004, she bought construction materials and saved up for renovations but the potential demolition of the hutong made her store all her materials in the city’s suburbs.


The dispute arose on Batiao’s value since it is listed as being culturally protected by the Beijing Cultural Heritage Administration which is battling its subsidiary in Dongcheng District. The former seeks to annul any demolition plans while the local authority is egging on the property development’s plans.


The demolition plan would see all houses in a controlled area to the north of Dongsi Batiao destroyed to make way for a 6-floor residence complex, only 12 meters away from the ancient alley.


The project was originally approved by the municipal urban planning bureau in 2001 under the plan to "renovate endangered areas." The permission, given to real estate company Zhong Bao Jia Ye, was also supported by the land authority, the housing administration and, as mentioned earlier, by the local cultural heritage administration.


Protestors have revealed that many other hutongs such as the Wenhua and Xichang hutongs in Xicheng District had already suffered the same sad end, their fate governed by state agencies and real estate companies instead of the very residents who can better appreciate the need for cultural preservation in these historical areas.


(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong and Chris Dalby, May 17, 2007)


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