A ceremony was held Monday afternoon in Beijing's Great Hall of the People to confer World Heritage Certificates on four Chinese sites listed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The China National Commission of UNESCO, the Ministry of Construction and the State Administration of Cultural Relics cosponsored the ceremony.
The four sites honored were the Three Parallel Rivers in southwest China's Yunnan Province; the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, north China's Shanxi Province, and the Ming Tombs (Shisanling) of Beijing and Xiaoling Tombs of Nanjing.
The Yungang Grottoes were placed on the World Heritage List at the 25th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in December 2001. The Three Parallel Rivers, Ming Tombs and Xiaoling Tombs were inducted at the 27th Session in July 2003, with the Three Parallel Rivers listed as a natural heritage site and the tombs as cultural heritage sites.
China has 29 UNESCO-recognized natural and cultural heritage sites, ranking third in the world. The nation ratified the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritages in 1985.
At the ceremony, UNESCO Beijing Office Vice Representative Genevieve Domenach-Chich affirmed China's achievements in protecting its natural and cultural heritage, while pointing out the problems that remain to be solved in their administration. On behalf of UNESCO she praised China for its contribution to the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage and stated that UNESCO supports China in finding solutions to the current problems.
Zhang Xinsheng, vice minister of education, director of China's UNESCO National Commission and chairman of the World Heritage Committee, said that world heritage sites are not only rare treasures handed down from our ancestors, but also wealth borrowed from future generations. Winning the title of world heritage site is just the start of the protection and management work in accordance with international conventions and higher standards, he pointed out, and not an indication that the work is complete.
Vice Minister of Construction Huang Wei said that China's world heritage protection work helped to raise public awareness, clarify protection methods and promote local economic development. He added that his ministry would strive to improve their work through establishment of a comprehensive plan and expanded exchanges with other countries.
Deputy Director of the State Administration of Cultural Relics Zhang Bai said that instead of confining themselves only to the promotion of local economies via tourism, local governments would use the application for the world heritage list as a strategic principle to promote progress and sustainable development.
Wu Xiaoqing, vice governor of Yunnan Province, said, "We have seen the delicate and fragile natural environment of the Three Parallel Rivers area. Resource-oriented methods of development must be abandoned and the relationship between long-term interests and short-term benefits properly treated. The concept of sustainable usage will grow based on the world heritage protection criterion."
The 28th Session of the World Heritage Committee will be held from June 28 to July 7 in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
(China.org.cn April 7, 2004)