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Officials deny Henan ancient city reconstruction plans

(Xinhua)

09:26, August 15, 2012

ZHENGZHOU, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Officials have denied rumors that extravagant sums are to be spent on restoring a central Chinese city established over 1,000 years ago.

Controversy has been sparked over claims that the government of Kaifeng, in Henan province, is planning to spend 100 billion yuan (15.77 billion U.S. dollars) to rebuild the ancient city.

Kaifeng, with the ancient name of "Bianjing," acted as the capital for several dynasties.

The so-called "rebuilding Bianjing" project has sparked an outcry at Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging service in China.

Some bloggers have accused the municipal government of intending to use the work to build up its own political credentials while disregarding their duty to conserve and improve locals' living conditions.

Others say reconstruction of the ancient scenic spots is aimed at removing the shanty towns from the city, and relocation of the residents might be neglected.

The annual financial income of Kaifeng is only about 500 million yuan, the 13th highest of the province's 18 cities. Should the ancient city be rebuilt, the government would have to borrow heavily.

However, the Kaifeng government clarified on Monday that it only aims to remold the shanty towns to improve people's living conditions.

Most of the buildings in the areas in question were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Residents there have been suffering from a lack of running water, heating or sanitation facilities for several decades.

"Shanty towns have been a tough challenge for Kaifeng for a long time. The government has put in place an office to resolve the problem," said Kong Xiangcheng, deputy director of the city's Housing and Urban-rural Development Bureau.

Kong said the shanty town renovation scheme includes the relocation of local residents and construction of new houses and infrastructure.

About 80,000 families living in the shanty towns would benefit from the renovation project, according to the official, who added that ancient historic sites will be preserved during the renovation.

"As a city with multiple historic sites, we will try our best to keep the original style of the ancient city during our reconstruction," Kong said. "We have already earmarked 86 sites for protection within the area."

Kong also explained that the Kaifeng government will follow national regulations concerning shanty town renovation, and raise money through financial aid, bank loans, self-financing and other means.
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