Beijing’s Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics has come under fire after it allegedly allowed two temples to be transformed into upscale “dining clubs”, the Beijing Times reported  on Tuesday.
The two-hundred-year-old temples were designated as cultural heritage sites in 1984, entitling them to state protection.
Recent on-sight investigations by the bureau at the temples in Beijing’s Dongcheng district confirmed that sections are being used as restaurants, offering private dining and catering to parties. The bureau has not clarified whether the new use is in violation of the law.
According to existing laws, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage  bars relics under state-protection from being leased, transferred or mortgaged as commercial assets and operated for profit.
The bureau, which administers Beijing’s local cultural heritage sites and museums, said the Songzhu and Zhizhu temples had been occupied by various commercial entities since the 1950s before being transferred to the Beijing Buddhist Association for management in the 1980s.
For various reasons, the companies refused to move and the association was eventually forced to rent spaces to them, according to a Xinhua report .
An editorial  in the People’s Daily on Tuesday said such conversions exposed holes in the management and protection of historical buildings and the “deliberate negligence of certain regulatory departments driven by [commercial] interests”.
The editorial called on Beijing officials to launch an investigation and establish a “scientific and effective system” to protect the city's historical buildings.