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Comment: Stop museum entrance fees
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It should not have taken so long. But finally it has arrived. By 2009, except for some special historical buildings and ruins, all public museums under the jurisdiction of the cultural authorities will stop charging entrance fees.


No doubt this is very good news for overseas tourists, who might otherwise be confused by the functions of our public museums.


For museum visitors in particular, the waiver will make their China experience richer, yet a lot cheaper.


If the decision-makers did not have foreign guests in mind when they worked on the project, this is a huge bonus. Free access to the variety of museums will facilitate outsider appreciation of our peculiar history and culture.


Our curious guests deserve to know how much more this country has to offer - much more than fancy delicacies and inexpensive silk.


The authorities have spent a lot in the past year on campaigns to promote cultural understanding overseas. There were big-budget exhibitions and shows of all kinds.


Offering free access to public museums, as we see it, is a cost-effective supplement and a boost on the home front to those endeavors of promotion.


The foremost beneficiaries, however, are the average Chinese.


In the first place, we see an additional sign that public finance is truly being re-oriented to upgrade public welfare. It is reassuring to see the tax levied on us is being allocated in a more sensible manner. Our State coffers are capable of providing more for public-interest undertakings. It is good to see public museums getting their due share.


Museums are great venues to help nurture a basic sense of our culture and history. This is essential for a shared sense of identity.


Entrance fees might not be the only cause of the generally low visitor flow at our museums. But they suffice to prevent many from visiting.


The irony is while most charge for entrance, few public museums are living on box-office revenues.


Instead, many continue to rely heavily on government subsidies. And they keep crying for more.


There is no better remedy than the State assuming full financial responsibility for such facilities.


Good to see the government is finally standing out.



(China Daily January 29, 2008)


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