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People's Daily Online>>China Politics

Government departments look to strengthen protection of underwater relics

By Yang Jie (Global Times)

08:57, December 26, 2011

A joint law enforcement agreement on the protection of underwater cultural heritage was reached by State authorities in early December, and is considered a significant step toward combating the rampant robbery of historical treasures.

An investigation of 11 coastal provinces, the Xisha Islands, and some inland provinces confirmed that at least 108 underwater cultural heritage sites exist across the country. An estimated 1,000 sunken ships lay in China's territorial waters, all high-value targets for treasure hunters.

"Underwater cultural relics are being damaged and even destroyed due to inappropriate civilian and criminal activity driven by the desire for economic rewards," said Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, at a conference held with the State Oceanic Administration on December 9.

Since the 1970s, when foreign merchant ships began to salvage relics from wrecks in China, the authorities' fight against such illegal acts has never ceased. Some crackdowns have been successful, but numerous treasures with hundreds of years of history are still being violently looted.

The antique trade market is heating up, and whether the newly adopted protection agreement between the two major government departments will bring the pillaging under control still remains to be seen.

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