Netizens chip in to protect Great Wall

BEIJING • In less than nine days, Chinese Internet users have donated more than 124,000 yuan (S$25,000) as of last night to a Great Wall preservation project - the first of its kind in China.

More than 11,200 people have contributed to the fund, which hopes to raise 11 million yuan by Dec 1, according to its fund-raising webpage.

The money will be used to repair a 1,050m-long section of the Great Wall in Xifengkou, Hebei province. The entire project is estimated to cost 23 million yuan and will be carried out in three stages.

The first stage will renovate 460m of the wall, costing 11 million yuan, and is expected to start in spring, said Mr Dong Yaohui, a Great Wall expert in charge of the crowd financing.

"The fund-raising has been going pretty well. Its primary purpose is to help the public learn more about the Great Wall's history and culture, as well as the difficulties in preserving it. We hope to better engage the public in its protection," said Mr Dong, who is also vice-head of the China Great Wall Society.

The crowdfunding was initiated by the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation, an organisation supervised by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

Mr Dong said 94 per cent of the contributions will be used to renovate the Xifengkou section and the rest to cover management costs.

How the money is spent and progress of the renovation will be disclosed to the public online or through other channels, he said.

It is possible that the online fund-raising could miss its target of 11 million yuan by the time it closes, Mr Dong said, adding that they will also canvass businesses for contributions.

The weatherworn Xifengkou section has a history of more than 500 years but is at risk of collapse at any time, Mr Dong said. "The project will mainly reinforce the wall to ensure the safety of the section, rather than try to build a new wall."

Though recent years have seen much progress in protecting the Great Wall, evident in increased legislation and enhanced public awareness, protection efforts are still understaffed and underfunded, said Mr Dong.

"By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Netizens chip in to protect Great Wall'. Print Edition | Subscribe