Officials cool on quake museum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 March, 2009, 12:00am

Tourism officials in Beichuan, Sichuan province, are trying to distance themselves from a plan to build a 2.3 billion yuan (HK$2.6 billion) museum in the area, which was devastated by last year's earthquake.

A bid to commemorate the May 12 quake, the proposed museum was supposedly planned to cover 8 sq km, including central Beichuan and the Tangjiashan 'quake lake'.

But the huge amount of money needed to pay for the project soon became the focal point of criticism.

'With regard to the hot debate targeting the proposal, we're now drafting a press release aiming to clarify our stance on the issue,' Lin Chuan, head of the tourism bureau in Beichuan county, said yesterday.

His deputy, Lin Jizhong, said: 'We're going to make the clarification public by posting it on the internet as soon as it comes out, within a day or two.'

According to an online opinion poll conducted by Netease, one of the mainland's most popular news portals, more than 98 per cent of more than 9,000 respondents objected to the plan.

Hundreds of internet users aired their anger over the plan for the museum, with some labelling it an 'image project' while others questioned whether it was worth building.

'Oh, 2.3 billion yuan! Is there any solid contribution to be made from such a museum?' challenged one internet user, who identified himself as 'Someone Awakened'.

'Please think about how many schools, how many miles of road and how many power cables and pylons could be constructed with such an astronomical figure.'

Another netizen wrote: 'Such a museum should be scrapped unless officials are held responsible to pay for it.

'The shock and grief of the earthquake are already sitting at the bottom of the Chinese people's hearts; there's no need to set up a 2.3 billion yuan museum to have it proven.'

Lin Jizhong said the plan, particularly its 2.3 billion yuan price tag, was merely a proposal initiated by several experts from Tongji University in Shanghai.

'It has neither gone through a thorough discussion and assessment by other experts, nor been approved by Beichuan authorities,' he said.

He also stressed that Beichuan had no authority to decide which proposal to use, let alone how much money it would cost.

'Instead, it is something up to the State Seismology Bureau,' he said.

According to official figures, more than 19,000 of the nearly 88,000 people who were killed by the massive tremor were from Beichuan county.


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