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Survey Backs Large Buffer Zone Around Forbidden City

Participants in an online survey have supported a proposal to introduce a large "buffer zone" around Beijing's Forbidden City in order to better protect the historical site.


Two alternative proposals on the zone to protect the Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, were made public earlier this month.


By Tuesday, 92 percent of the 182 online votes backed the second proposal that suggests a protection area of 1,463 hectares.


The protection area includes the 86 hectares of the Imperial Palace, a buffer zone of 780 hectares and a 597-hectare area where construction must be controlled.


The buffer zone in the first proposal only includes the traditional "imperial city" area of 597 hectares, together with the Imperial Palace.


"I believe the second plan will better protect the appearance of the original Imperial City. I am for it," a participant in the survey said.


"The establishment of the buffer zone is an honor for local residents of the capital city," the person added.


Director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage Mei Ninghua said views from residents will be an important reference for the future government decision.


A final decision will be made by February next year, when it will be submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


Constructions within the buffer zone will be limited to a height of nine meters, local cultural officials said.


Some high buildings will possibly be demolished in the area when the plan is agreed, experts pointed out.


"We do not mean the restriction of construction," Kong Fanzhi, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, said.


"But new architecture will be required to comply with the historical scene of the Forbidden City -- a world heritage site -- in terms of height, appearance and color," he said.


Kong pointed out that although the height of construction is a key aspect of the plan, some exceptions could be considered.


"For example, the China National Theatre to the west of the Great Hall of the People in Tian'anmen Square is not within the buffer zone, although one street beside is in the zone," the official said.


Xie Chensheng, a well-known cultural heritage preservation expert, said although the establishment of buffer zone is a little late, it still offers a good example for protecting world heritage and other major cultural relics.


Xie also supports the second option.


Beijing currently has six world heritage sites.


Among them, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the Ming Tombs already have buffer zones.


(China Daily September 8, 2004)


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