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Government to compensate museums for free entry
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The central government will offer funding to museums and memorial halls to support their operating expenses amid a drive to encourage more of these venues to offer free admission, according to statement from a senior official.


The operating expenses of all national museums and memorial halls would be covered by the central budget, while institutions at the provincial level would be jointly supported by the central and local budgets, Vice Minister of Finance Zhang Shaochun said.


According to Zhang, the amount of compensation for institutions at the provincial level would vary by location. Those in eastern provinces, where local economies were stronger, would get 20 percent subsidies, with 60 percent funding for those in central provinces and 80 percent for the western provinces. He didn't say which provinces were in which category.


In a statement released on Thursday on the official website of the Ministry of Culture, Zhang urged local budget officials to provide for the operating expenses of museums and memorial halls.


"The free entry of museums and memorial halls must be guaranteed and should in no way be hampered by fund shortages," he said.


Local funding should cover improvements in museum facilities or the costs of special or guest exhibitions. Provincial museums that offer cheap tickets and flexible admission fees could compete for awards and subsidies, according to the statement.


Meanwhile, central government revenues could help national museums, whether in Beijing or other provinces, increase their collections, adopt new display technology and enhance their communication, said Zhang.


China issued a circular on Jan. 23 this year saying that all museums, memorial halls and national patriotism education bases would offer free admission by 2009, excluding cultural relics and historical sites.


China has more than 2,300 museums with more than 20 million exhibits. They received more than 150 million people last year.


(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)

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