China's Legislature Mulls Law on Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection
The protection of intangible cultural heritage is now on the agenda of China's top legislature as the National People's Congress reviews the amendment to the criminal law, and the law on deputies of lawmakers in the same session. Thousands of intangible cultural heritages will soon have specific laws to protect them from dying out.
Zhao Yang has the detail. Intangible cultural heritage is defined as the traditional cultural expressions and practices that have been passed down through generations and have become part of the group's cultural heritage.
Statistics show that by 2009, there are over 2,000 national intangible cultural heritage items and around 1,480 heirs in China. It is under the impact of the fast pace of modernization and the change of people's traditional life.
Wu Bing'an, vice-chairmen and member of the National Expert Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection says that the main problem is the lack of legal support.
"China's protection on intangible cultural heritage started long ago, but it has only administrative regulations without legal basis. The state council and Culture Ministry has issued several documents to guide the protection, which is very limited, as all the grass roots departments execute the order of local government. Most of the grass root departments focus on economy instead of culture."
China started the protection process back in 2003, and joined UNESCO's Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage a year later.
Cai Wu, China's Culture Minister, urges to establish law to safeguard intangible cultural heritage.
"Many traditional techniques are facing the danger of dying away and losing heirs, including some of historical, literary, artistic or scientific value. We need to specify the system through legislative measures, and continue to strengthen their protection."
The draft law proposes lists of national and local intangible cultural heritage separately and regulates foreign organizations conducting surveys in China and other measures to protect intangible culture.
Wu Bing'an points out the highlights of the draft law.
"The first is to define what intangible cultural heritage is and what we are going to protect. Then the law should have detailed articles to specify how to protect it, making sure each heritage is under the protection of related law. The law also has to make it clear who is carrying the intangible cultural and who is responsible to pass it to future generations. It concludes as rights, responsibilities and benefits."
He also says the law should introduce punitive measure to avoid the commercialization of the protection effort, which brings additional damage to the heritage.
For CRI, I am Zhao Yang.