China's Wen laments destruction of heritage

BEIJING, September 7, 2011 (AFP) - China's Premier Wen Jiabao has accused land developers of destroying traditional heritage and leaving the nation with a culture of "phony" modernisation, state media said Wednesday.

Disputes over forced land requisitions have become China's most volatile social problem as officials and developers seek to cash in on a property boom, sometimes forcing people out of their homes without proper compensation.

"No one is paying attention to the legal rights of farmers in some places, and they are forcefully destroying homes and moving them out," Wen was quoted as saying by the state-run Beijing News.

"We are destroying the real and building up the fake," he told a symposium in the capital to discuss the safeguarding of China's cultural traditions.

"A lot of our tangible cultural heritage has been torn down and destroyed, and then a lot of money is spent on building these phony things."

Wen -- long viewed as a man of the people -- said that destroying homes in the name of development was not merely hurting China's cultural heritage but was also calling its morality into question.

"The development of our nation and the re-awakening of our people does not only require economic power, but more importantly it needs strong cultural and moral strength," Wen said.

"If our cultural development lags behind, it will restrict our economic development, social advances, ecological protection and even our politics."

Since China embarked on economic reforms 30 years ago, many buildings and houses in China have been forcibly demolished to make way for apartment blocks, office buildings and roads.

In Beijing -- China's political core -- parts of the centuries old district of alleyway "hutongs", which boasts some of Beijing's most well-preserved homes, have also been destroyed as part of a drive to modernise.

Wen has repeatedly vowed to do more for ordinary people, including ridding his government of corruption and ushering in political reforms.