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Conflict leads to ruined ruins

2014-03-05 15:45 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

For farmers living in Xiaosikong Village, home to one of China's oldest and largest archaeological sites, their dreams of moving house have been shattered - again.

The village was told at the beginning of March by the district government a total construction ban was in place. This followed a Xinhua investigation in late February that revealed the illegal construction of homes in the area, which was causing damage to the UNESCO cultural heritage site.

Officially, not one single building has been allowed to be erected over the past two decades in Xiaosikong and 13 neighboring villages in Anyang City of central China's Henan Province.

As a discovery site of oracle bones and script, Yinxu, or the Yin Ruins in today's Anyang, boasts archaeological remnants of the ancient city of Yin, the last capital of the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC - 1046 BC).

According to a local government plan, an area of nearly 30 square kilometers, home to 20,000 residents, is banned from construction activities as building work could damage the earth underneath. Factories in the area have also been closed to protect the UNESCO heritage site.

However, historic preservation has led to conflict.


"I can't let myself starve to death," said a farmer who lives in the protection area.

There is neither industry nor livestock in the area. Even planting and irrigation are strictly limited in case ruins are damaged. As a result, farmers have become worse off without regular income.

"Villagers chipped in to build a small auditorium for weddings and funerals but failed. We wanted to dig a well for bathing but couldn't," said the Wuguan Village secretary, surnamed Wu.

Since the inscription of Yin Ruins on the world cultural heritage list in 2001, 78 factories have been torn down to make room for preservation and greenery. It has taken its toll on the local economy.

In Xiaotun Village, the collective income was 400,000 yuan (65,295 US dollars) before 2001, but is now 20,000 yuan .

"Without a house and enough money, getting married becomes impossible for young men. If you take a walk in any of the villages, you will find a dozen unmarried men," said Wu. "Some of them are over 40."

Petitions concerning housing "are a headache for the government," said Wang Xuejun, deputy chief of Anyang City's Yindu District, which has 12 villages in the protection area.

With nearly half of the district land area is left idle, local farmers have no more than 0.5 mu (0.033 hectares) of per capita farmland.

The Xinhua investigation found that a dozen of three- to five-storey buildings have been secretly built and some more are under construction in several villages -- all without local authority approval.

"You will have to cut my head off before you demolish anything behind me," a village head told law enforcement officials, who had been sent by the government.

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