Despite Promises, Old Beijing Neighborhoods Fall

A couple of recent articles have highlighted the destruction of Beijing to make way for Olympics construction. AP reports on the Qianmen neighborhood of the city:

The redevelopment project, covering an area roughly 17 blocks long by six blocks wide, will bring big change to a neighborhood near the old imperial city and Tiananmen Square that dates back more than 400 years to the Ming Dynasty. It gets its name from the towering gate — Qianmen means ”front gate” — that was once an entrance to the city.

”Old Beijing is not just for Chinese people but for people of the world,” said Zhao Gengjun, 50, whose family was evicted after living in the same home for five generations. ”But they want to demolish it and make fake houses after all the ordinary people have left.”

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Alarmed by the destruction of old Beijing, the city agreed in 2002 to preserve 25 historic areas, including part of Qianmen. That year, the national government pledged in a Beijing Olympics Action Plan to pay ”special attention” to conserving buildings in those areas.

But the destruction has continued — and in some cases accelerated — amid a property boom that is transforming the city.

See also “Ancient quarter makes way for modern antiquity” from the Financial Times. For more on this topic, read a CDT review of The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer.

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