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World Heritage Center Sets Sights on China's Top Relics
Representatives from the World Heritage Center under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) started a week-long tour in China yesterday to promote the country's heritage protection.

The World Heritage Center will hold its annual meeting in China next June to further discuss heritage protection issues in the world and to decide a new round of world heritage sites.

The host city of next year's annual meeting will be decided at the end of the tour, officials with the UNESCO Beijing Office said yesterday.

Led by Francesco Bandarin, director of the World Heritage Center, the UNESCO group will visit major relics sites in five cities - Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Shanghai and Suzhou.

"The trip is not an inspection of China's heritage protection but an opportunity for us to learn from China and to communicate with Chinese people on how to better protect world heritages," Bandarin said.

China has an abundant resource of natural and historic heritages which have a fundamental impact on the progress of humankind, Bandarin said.

"Heritage is the identity of a nation, the value of a society; and we must preserve it for future generations," he added.

The World Heritage List now has 730 sites of "exceptional universal value" in 122 countries and regions across the world, including 28 Chinese sites.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the UN World Heritage Convention, which has provided a valuable legal tool to help further heritage protection, said Yasuyuki Aoshima, director of the UNESCO Beijing Office.

Since China became a member of the convention in 1985, the country has tried to play a larger role to promote world heritage protection, Aoshima said.

The World Heritage Center added nine new cultural and natural sites to the World Heritage List at its annual meeting in Budapest last month, including one in China.

As the center decided to reduce the quantity of World Heritage sites that are admitted each year, China has to choose the best candidate from a tentative list to submit, Aoshima said.

Some local governments hope the inclusion of their sites on the World Heritage List will help boost tourism and other economic sectors.

"Tourism is a good opportunity to show the world the value of heritage, and one of the major financial sources to help protect the sites," Bandarin said. "However, it must be under control and governments at all levels should make sure it will not harm the heritage protection mission."

Tourists need to be informed that they are part of the protection mission and their contribution will be valued.

(China Daily July 6, 2002)

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