Cultural heritage protection extended to intangible assets, movable property

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Issue 609, Page 3
Word count: 976
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The government yesterday released the cultural heritage protection bill in which the concept of cultural heritage is extended to cover intangible assets and movable property.

The public can start submitting opinions regarding the 100 articles in the bill to the Cultural Affairs Bureau (ICM) until April 30 this year.

Director of the ICM, Heidi Ho Lai Chun, said in the press conference that the core of the bill was to “protect Macau’s cultural heritage comprehensively, especially the Historic Centre of Macau which was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in July 2005.”

Public participation, according to Ms Ho, was an “important component” of heritage conservation, and thus the setting up of a Cultural Heritage Committee would be “one of the ways to initiate interaction between the government and society”.

Outlined in the bill, the committee will function as an advisory body for the SAR government to “push forward protection and promotion of cultural heritage.”

The committee would be established in the form of an administrative regulation and Ms Ho said the government would start working on it once the bill was passed on to the Legislative Assembly.

She also said that members would come from different social sectors and must include UNESCO representatives in Macau.

Intangible cultural heritage

According to the bill, the scope of intangible cultural heritage includes traditions and oral expressions; performing arts and projects with a performing nature; social customs, etiquette and festivals; knowledge and practice in relations to nature and the universe; and also traditional handicraft skills.

It is said that the aims to protect intangible cultural heritage are to “facilitate their continuity and characteristics in the region, reinforce Macau residents’ awareness on preserving local cultures and their uniqueness, and respect and promote different communities, groups or individuals’ contributions to Macau’s cultures”.

In addition, an intangible cultural heritage list will be drawn up which includes the adoption of picture demonstrations, audio or visual tools to reserve the projects for recognition, archive and research.

An intangible cultural heritage directory will also be drawn up, in which projects listed in it have to be approved by the Chief Executive and commented by the Cultural Heritage Committee.

The bill also states that only projects listed in the Macau intangible cultural heritage directory can be submitted to the central government to apply for the inclusion in China’s state-level intangible cultural heritage directory.

Meanwhile, applications for declaring a certain project to be included in the intangible cultural heritage list can be handed in at any time.

Movable property

The bill defines that any movable property with “notable cultural values” can be subject for evaluation.

They include furniture, religious relics and ritual objects, porcelain, ceramics, glass and enamel products, drawings and calligraphy, musical instruments, textiles, weapons, manuscripts, maps and other prints, files and books, photography, films and sound recording media.

For movable property which has been evaluated as cultural heritage, its temporary export has to be approved by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture and only for education, cultural or scientific purpose.

Any illegitimate activities to export movable cultural heritage objects will be sentenced to three years in jail or fined an amount equivalent to maximum of 600 days.

In special circumstances the Chief Executive can approve the export of certain classified movable property from the SAR in order to exchange for another asset abroad which contains “special meanings” to Macau’s cultural heritage.

Immovable property

The bill defines immovable property into monuments, architectures with architectural and artistic values, sets of buildings and venues. These are eligible to be evaluated as cultural heritage as long as they have “notable significance and universal values.”

The evaluation criteria include having intrinsic values aesthetically, technologically or materially, carrying significance of witnessing certain living styles or historical facts, and carrying significance in history, society or scientific research.

The bill proposes that the evaluation process can be initiated by the ICM, other public departments, property owners or ordinary citizens.

On the other hand, the bill outlines a scheme to be applied on immovable property which has already been classified as cultural heritage.

Existing cultural heritage of such kind includes the Ruins of St Paul’s, the Fortress, A-Ma Temple, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau Building, the Pedro V Theatre, Kwun Yam Temple in Taipa and Ka-Ho, the Red Market, the BNU headquarters building, the old court building, Lilau Square, Mt Guia and Penha Hill.

The provision states that immovable cultural heritage is prohibited from being demolished except in special circumstances. Offenders will be fined anything from 200,000 patacas to five million patacas varying on their legal entities.

In addition, fines of between 2,000 patacas and 100,000 patacas are proposed for people who portray or spray-paint monuments or valuable architectures; and between 10,000 patacas and 500,000 patacas for those who put up signs, advertisement, posters or other kinds of informative items on immovable cultural heritage.

The ICM director said that the penalties were to raise public awareness on heritage conservation in Macau, adding young people would be the “first target” which would then be extended to “everyone in society.”

With regards to the conservation of the Historical Centre of Macau, the bill proposes the setting up of a management plan which includes rules to restore or reconstruct architecture, traffic and parking restrictions, improvement of public space and infrastructures.

According to Ms Ho, the bill was drafted based on the conditions in the SAR, relevant demands of international conventions, successful experience of other countries or regions, as well as the opinions and suggestions collected during the first public consultation about the outline of the bill.

After the public consultation which ends on April 30, Ms Ho said the ICM would take about two months to analyse all the comments.

A report will then be prepared for the Office of the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture and finally be handed in to the Legislative Assembly.

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