China's top legislature Friday passed the country's first law for intangible cultural heritage (ICH) to better preserve the nations's traditions of historic, literary, artistic or scientific value.
The law, to take effect on June 1, was approved at the end of the three-day bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee after the draft version was revised three times since August last year.
"It is a milestone for the country's ICH protection efforts," Vice Minister of Culture Wang Wenzhang told Xinhua in an interview.
ICH is responsible for the traditional cultural expressions and practices of China's various ethnic groups, which have been passed down through generations and have become part of the country's cultural heritage.
The ICH specifically covers traditional oral literature, performing arts, craftsmanship, medicine and folk customs. The law also recognizes material objects and the sites for performing practices.
The law provides that the State Council and provincial governments must create lists of representative ICH items for national and local levels, respectively. The agencies are also tasked to enhance protection efforts for ICH items.
According to the law, the country would assist ICH protection efforts in ethnic minority areas, remote areas and poverty-stricken areas.
Aside from providing effective protection, the law also encourages the development of cultural products and services based on rational use of the representative ICH items.
Governments should support such rational utilization activities conducted by related units, which could benefit from tax breaks, according to the law.
"Such practice is a kind of productive protection for ICH," said Wang, adding that it would effectively help pass on related ICH items.
The law also supports representative heirs in carrying forward ICH items and conducting follow-up personnel training.
Cultural authorities must provide necessary places and funds for representative heirs to pass on related skills and knowledge and encourage participation in non-profit social activities, the law said.
"From this year on, the heirs can receive up to 10,000 yuan (1,521 U.S. dollars) from the central budget as financial support for carrying forward the ICH items," Wang said.
New appointments should be made if representative heirs reject the duty or lose the ability to pass on skills and knowledge, according to the law.
The utilization and development of the ICH, which involves intellectual property rights, should also supplement relevant laws and regulations, the law said.
The new law also spells out that foreign organizations and individuals, before conducting surveys of ICH in China, will be required to first obtain approval from cultural authorities that are at least on the provincial level.
Under the law, foreign organizations will have to conduct surveys in cooperation with Chinese ICH research institutions.
Also, foreign organizations and individuals must submit their research reports along with copies of on-site data and pictures during the survey.
Foreign organizations that violate the law may face fines ranging from 100,000 yuan (15,205 U.S. dollars) to 500,000 yuan. Individuals may also be fined from 10,000 to 50,000 yuan, the law said.
Statistics show that China has 1,028 state-level ICH items and 1,488 state-level representative heirs. The country's total ICH resources amount to nearly 870,000 items.