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Protected Hutong in Danger of Demolition
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The Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage has recently appealed to related departments to prevent a property developer from demolishing Dongsi Batiao, an ancient Hutong in Beijing.

The demolition was planned to begin in Monday.

During an interview with the Beijing Times, a staff member from the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage said that the administration had written recently to the real estate developer, calling for protection of buildings in the alley.

However, the administration does not have the final say on these matters, the official said.

The Batiao, located in the Dongcheng District, was built about 700 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty. It was listed as a cultural protection area by the municipal government in 1999.

According to the regulation issued by the municipal government on the cultural relic protection, demolition is strictly forbidden in the old hutongs.

According to the paper, the housing administration of Dongcheng District published an announcement in February on the demolition of the hutong, to clear way for a complex construction covering an 80,000-square-meter area between Batiao and nearby Jiutiao.

It's reported the project will bring a net profit of 190 million yuan (US$23.75million).

The authority put up another notice on April 15, requiring residents there to move out before May 26.

Liu Qifei, an archaeologist and a member of the Beijing Committee of CPPCC, China's advisory body, also appealed to the municipal government in late April, to stop the project and to penalize the departments in charge.

She said the project will further damage the city's image as an old capital city abundant in cultural relics. Only a few original hutongs are well preserved today.

Beijing's historic layout, which dates back several hundred years ago, typically consists of small, narrow "hutongs" that run, maze-like, through the centre of the city. Residents in hutongs usually live in "siheyuan", traditional Chinese quadrangle-yard houses.

These hutongs and siheyuan provide a direct link to China's much venerated past. However, they have been vanishing in the dust of Beijing's continuous city construction in recent years.

(CRI.cn May 15, 2007)

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