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Earthquake memorial entrance fee scrapped after profit-making accusations

(Xinhua)

09:55, November 03, 2011

CHENGDU, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- The entrance fee for an earthquake memorial in southwest Sichuan Province has been canceled after Internet users accused its operator of cashing in on the victims.

Staff from the Beichuan Earthquake Relics Memorial admitted they had not been authorized to charge 12 yuan (1.9 U.S.dollars) for people wanting to enter the memorial which pays tribute to quake victims.

Yang Mengjun, director of the memorial's reception center, however, defended the fee, saying it was to fund the operation of the cash-strapped institution.

"The charges are purely for maintenance and recruiting staff, including guides and security personnel, and we have not made extra money out of it," said Yang.

The memorial, located on the earthquake relics in Beichuan county, Sichuan, was built to mark the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake of 2008 that left 87,000 people dead or missing.

Tourists said they had to pay 30 yuan (18 yuan for transportation) before entering the memorial. Photos posted online of the ticket booth had sparked criticisms that the operator was disrespecting the dead.

"I feel its emotionally unacceptable as it's the resting place of the victims, not a place to make money," said a visitor surnamed Zhang.

Local authorities, on their part, complained about the lack of funds for maintenance of quake sites, which forced many facilities to be built on loans and debt.

"Considering people's wish to hold memorial ceremonies at the site, we had to rebuild roads and restore facilities like cemeteries and toilets in the ruins," said Jing Fuguo, an official in charge of the preservation of the Beichuan county site.

"Those all went beyond the reach of national funds, so we had to make ends meet ourselves," said Jing.

 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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