Authorities admit move may involve heritage buildings Beijing plans to relocate another 15,000 households from some old neighbourhoods as officials scramble to preserve heritage sites ahead of the expected influx of tourists for next year's Beijing Olympics. Kong Fanzhi, director of the Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, said the relocations would involve some high-value buildings with national and municipal heritage status and suggested that more relocations would follow. Conservationists have been dismayed over the demolition of many ancient neighbourhoods in the past two decades, particularly the traditional courtyards and hutongs. They accuse authorities of putting the interests of developers ahead of residents' rights and the need for cultural heritage preservation in Beijing. A demolition threat to a Beijing hutong in May sparked angry protests against the plan to build a European-style residential and commercial complex in the Dongsibatiao area of Dongcheng district. Residents argued that the development violated the law because the neighbourhood was covered by preservation orders under the city's current five-year plan on heritage conservation. They eventually forced the authorities to suspend the project. But Mr Kong sought to defend the redevelopment push, saying 'the traditional neighbourhoods can no longer meet the rising living standards of modern life'. He added that many such buildings cannot provide basic sanitation facilities such as flush toilets. Mr Kong also said demolishing some of the old neighbourhoods was necessary to allow for development of the traffic network, which is arguably among the world's most gridlocked. He said the government would not encourage the transformation of heritage buildings into retreats for the rich, a trend hailed by many as a new way of preserving heritage. A courtyard residence in Beijing made headlines worldwide last year after it was sold for 110 million yuan to a wealthy Russian businessman. Several of the world's richest people, including media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, reportedly have expressed interest in buying traditional courtyards in Beijing. Some owners of such properties have renovated their homes with potential foreign buyers in mind. Mr Kong said the key to preserving ancient buildings was relocation to lower the population within the ancient neighbourhoods to make way for better planning and conservation. Beijing plans to move about 200,000 residents out of the inner city in the next five years as part of the 11th five-year plan on heritage conservation.