Priceless Chinese heritage being plundered, culture chief warns

September 29, 2015 09:41
Ancient Chinese tombs containing priceless relics are targets for well-equipped modern-day tomb raiders. Photo: AFP

The treasures of thousands of years of Chinese culture are being plundered or disappearing under bulldozers as authorities either do not care or do not have the resources to look after them, the country's culture chief said.

In an interview published Monday in the influential Communist Party newspaper Study Times, Li Xiaoji, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said the difficulties he faced in trying to protect China's culture were "severe".

From 2009 to 2014, police uncovered more than 7,000 cases of cultural artefacts being stolen, smuggled out of the country or otherwise plundered, especially from tombs, Li told the newspaper, published by the Central Party School, which trains rising officials.

"These criminal activities are organized, use high technology and violence, and steal to order," Li said.

Another problem was that some local governments seemed not to care about the treasures in their jurisdiction or simply lacked the ability to look after them, Reuters reported Li as saying in the interview.

"In some culturally protected areas or where there are construction controls, there is illegal construction, damaging the historical features, including the treasures themselves. Some precious ancient sites and buildings have vanished beneath bulldozers," Li said.

In many cases the damage was caused by local governments and officials, he said.

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