Experts have called for timely moves to further improve the law on cultural relics protection at the time when the country marks the 30th anniversary of its legislation on protecting cultural heritage.
On Nov. 19, 1982, China's top legislators approved the country's law on cultural relics protection. During the past 30 years, the country has made great achievements in the cause of preserving cultural relics.
However, many cultural relics are still not being protected in a timely and effective manner, as some relics are destroyed in the process of urban construction, ancient tombs are robbed, collected historic relics get stolen and relics are smuggled.
According to statistics from the latest national archaeological survey conducted from 2007 to 2011, China has more than 760,000 pieces of registered unmovable cultural relics and 2,384 state-owned museums with 28.6 million pieces of collected relics.
The survey also revealed that in the past 30 years, more than 40,000 unmovable relics have vanished, with half of them destroyed by construction work.
Thirty-one Han Tombs in north China's Hebei Province that were listed on the provincial-level preservation list in 1982 have suffered fierce robberies. Irregular bottomless caves can be found at each tomb, and some thieves have even robbed the tombs in broad daylight, according to local villagers.
In November, local police in central China's Hubei Province said that a case involving stealing and reselling tomb relics was uncovered and a total of 198 pieces of cultural relics were seized.
Li Enjia, vice director of the Hebei Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage, said that illegal black market deals and high interest drive people to seek illegitimate profits and commit crimes in the cultural relics trade.
Contrasting to rampant relics robberies, efforts to protect cultural relics are weak, especially at grassroots levels. In remote areas, relics are targeted by robbers as no nobody stands guard.
According to Geng Zuoche, head of the cultural relics management office of the Western Qing Tombs, a world cultural heritage site in central Hebei, the tombs cover an area of 80 square kilometers, but there are only 161 people on staff and most of them are engaged in hotel and office work.
The Zhaowang Tombs, another royal mausoleum, located in southern Hebei, has an administrative office with just one person on staff, Geng added.
Figures provided by cultural departments show that more than half of the collected relics need restoration work, but there are only 198 qualified institutions and more than 2,000 skilled professionals nationwide, said Lu Yongxiang, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
"China faces a great shortage of specialists in the restoration of cultural relics and renovation of ancient architecture," Lu said, adding that this shortage has largely restricted the development of relics protection.
Lu said that China has not yet set up a national database for cultural relics nor a platform for the public to share information in this field.
Moreover, defection and fund shortages still exist in law enforcement agencies, especially at the grassroots level, Lu added.
Experts have suggested that law enforcement departments' duties regarding cultural relics should be made clear and governments at all levels should make investment in relics protection in accordance with the local situation.
Experts have also urged further regulating the trade and supervision systems on cultural relics and severely cracking down on crime in this area.