Fanjing Mountain is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site in Guizhou province. (LIU GUIXIONG/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Three officials working for a scenic area have been removed from their posts after the grayish walls of two temple halls on top of a UNESCO World Heritage Site mountain were painted reddish-pink, authorities said on Friday.
The government of Tongren, Guizhou province, said in a statement that Hu Ruifeng, deputy head of the management bureau of Fanjing Mountain; Qiu Yang, the bureau's head of planning; and Yang Sheng, general manager of the tourism company in charge of the project, have been removed. Shang Kong, head of the management bureau, and Tao Huayuan, chairman of the tourism company, have been placed under investigation.
Previously, a short video posted on social media showed the mountain's Jinding peak — where two Buddhist temple halls sit atop a 94-meter, almost vertical rock split in the middle — was half-shrouded by clouds. Netizens spotted that the walls of the two temples, which were grayish-white on the scenic area's website, appeared to be reddish-pink.
The two halls, dedicated to two major Buddhas, were built in the early 15th century and have gone through several renovations over the years.
Shangyou News in Chongqing asked authorities at the scenic area about the change. A hotline service worker replied that they have "verified multiple times "that the original color of the bricks was gray, not red, and that recent repair work had replaced some of the worn bricks with new ones, but the color had been retained.
The worker added that the photographer may have used a colored filter.
Shangyou contacted some tourists who recently visited, and they said the walls they had seen were reddish. Recent photos on multiple social media platforms also show the walls as having a reddish hue.
An investigation was then launched by Tongren, where the mountain is located.
It found out that the tourism company at the scenic area had begun renovating the walls without obtaining the proper paperwork, and that it had arbitrarily changed the walls' color, which breached regulations and prompted "a serious negative social impact".
The investigation concluded that Fanjing Mountain's management bureau was also to blame for failing in its responsibility of overseeing the affairs.
The investigation team also reprimanded the hotline service worker for giving the wrong information and not knowing the details of the repair work. It added that a team of experts has visited the site to guide the repair work and will restore the buildings to their original appearance.
Fanjing Mountain, at about 2,400 meters above sea level, was one of the first areas in present-day China to emerge from the primordial sea, a process that geologists estimated to have happened some 1.4 billion years ago.
It is the home of endemic species such as the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey and Fanjingshan fir, and was listed as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2018.