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Zhang Yimou Criticized for Damaging Environment of West Lake
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Citizens are criticizing China's leading film director Zhang Yimou for damaging the environment of the famous West Lake in east China, where Zhang is producing an outdoor visual arts performance.

A scenic spot on West Lake in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, -- where Zhang's outdoor performance Impression West Lake will be staged -- has been turned into a dusty construction site, according to local media reports.

Zhang has directed a number of visual arts performances in recent years. His Impression series including Impression Liu Sanjie and Impression Lijiang drew droves of tourists to the scenic resorts.

Attracted by the earning potential of Zhang's productions, the Hangzhou local government invested 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million) to produce Impression West Lake.

"Hangzhou has lacked attractive night entertainment for a long time. Zhang Yimou's outdoor performance will make more tourists stay in the city overnight and spend more in the city," said Chen Wei, vice director of the cultural department of the administration committee of West Lake scenery resort.

Construction of the performance site began in 2005. A large underwater elevator covering an area of several hundred square meters, which will be the stage, has been set up. A two-storey pseudo-classic architectural structure has been built in the lake.

Many netizens said that the construction of the performance site violates regulations stipulating that new buildings cannot be built in scenic areas.

But an official with the construction department of Zhejiang Province said the project didn't violate the regulations because the buildings are only temporary.

However, Zhang was quoted by local media as saying that Impression West Lake will be performed for 20 or 30 years, and maybe even longer.

In 2003, Zhang created the first installment of his outdoor Impression series, Impression Liu Sanjie, in the mountain and river scenery of Yangshuo, a world-renowned scenic resort in south China. The show proved to be very popular.

His second outdoor production debuted in July this year at the foot of snow-capped Yulongxue mountains and Dayan Ancient Town, a world heritage site in Lijiang, southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Many Chinese film and TV play producers including Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige have been criticized by the public recently for harming the environment and cultural relics.

The Ministry of Construction has revised the regulation on the environmental protection of scenic spots, instituting fines ranging from 500,000 yuan (US$62,500) to 1 million yuan for heavy damage to scenery, vegetation and landforms.
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2006)

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