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Shanghai residents welcome prison closure plans


19:54, July 12, 2013

SHANGHAI, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Residents living near an old prison in Shanghai have welcomed the planned closure of the complex, complaining that the facility had severely affected their lives.

A resident surnamed Wang said Tilanqiao Prison, located in Hongkou District, is just across the road from his home. While the commercial metropolis is becoming more and more glamorous, his community remains outdated due to the prison's existence, he said.

"Of course I hope the prison will be relocated," said an old woman surnamed Xie. "For many years, the roads have been sealed off when new inmates are taken in, and we have been disturbed by their morning exercises, which severely impacted our lives."

Officials of Hongkou District said the relocation of the prison as well as the layout of its replacement remain under discussion.

The Shanghai Prison Administration, in responding to a Xinhua inquiry, said it had not yet received the notice for relocation, and the prison is still operating as normal.

The administration added that it would take over two years to complete the process of finding a proper site for the new prison, its construction, and transfer of the prisoners.

Founded in 1901 by British authorities, Tilanqiao, also known as Ward Road Jail, is the oldest jail still in operation in China. Hundreds of Japanese prisoners of war were imprisoned there after the second Sino-Japanese war (1937 and 1945).

In the 1990s, one building of the complex was transformed into a prison museum and opened to the public.

Although the prison is listed as a key relic, Shanghai's expansion over the century has seen Tilanqiao swallowed into the city's downtown area, and it has impeded commercial development of the community.

Gu Xiaoming, a history professor with Fudan University, said he supports the relocation.

"But because Tilanqiao is a historical and cultural relic, we must not get rid of the historic significance of the site while remolding it," Gu said. "Instead, we need to find a way to look after both the social and commercial interests."

Internet users also expressed their worries over the relocation of the 110-year-old facility.

While some worried that the closure of the prison would destroy the flavor of the ancient city, others suggested that its main buildings be remolded into a permanent museum.

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