China's capital pulls down name plagues on buildings for ‘restoring beautiful skyline’
Following the clean-up of the “holes in the wall”, Beijing has recently embarked on a new project—to dismantle all advertisement tablets or plaques on high or low buildings that may affect the appearance of the capital's beautiful skyline.

While some local media extolled the good effects of the new campaign, other people have complained that when all these buildings are devoid of external signboards, it will be quite easy to get lost, and some are questioning if the new move taken by the municipal government is necessary or even legal.

According to Chinese media, Beijing has till now torn down 14,000 advertising plaques originally attached to architectural structures' external walls, including those erected by the country's leading IT companies like Baidu, Tencent, and Netease, popular restaurants and shops, and hospitals, colleges, department stores, and government organs.

The campaign calling to “restore Beijing's beautiful skyline” plans to dismantle a total of 27,000 signboards that it regards “not in line with regulations” in the capital city's urban area by the end of the year.
“(It's) bald now...let's look forward to the logo of Chinese National Geography to have a renewed image,” said a state-run geographical journal through its social medial account with a photo of the name board on top of its office building being dismantled. A Chinese commentary wrote ironically, “All the buildings are bald, making people feel chilly cold, especially as it's winter now.”

Beijing authorities are cited as saying that, based on the regulation for setting up identification boards in the city, governments of all districts and related departments would engage in an active campaign to create a public space that has “dimensional coordination, visual clarity, standardized order, graceful cleanness and high-end quality”. Meanwhile, it is believed by the municipal government that the clean-up would not only manage the “mess” on top of the buildings but root out potential safety hazards.

The campaign to pull down signboards is said to be based on a newly amended regulation issued on October 12 this year that only allows the name board of buildings to be hanged on external walls above third floor, with length of characters no longer than 1.5 meters. And the name board of businesses inside the buildings could only be hanged below the third floor, with the length of characters no longer than 0.8 meters.
And all the 27,000 boards that have already or to be torn down are determined by the campaign to be “unqualified”. However, according to a report by the Procuratorate Daily, the media run by the Supreme Peoples' Procuratorate—the highest government agency for prosecution and investigation in China—before the new rules came out, the old billboards were also approved and authorized before being erected. The original regulation for signboards went into force on November 8, 2007, under which, businesses and individuals are not allowed to set up any advertising board without gaining permission from related authorities.

The Procuratorate Daily report indicated “the regulation is not law, not even a rule.” Being an “administrative permit”, if authorities revoke it, it could be justified on two conditions—one is that objective circumstances in which the permit is issued have significantly changed and the other is the recall is for the sake of public good.

“Advertising signboards are not cheap stuff, they stand there to be of some value, while pulling down will leave nothing but a pile of scrap iron. Owners of the boards would suffer a loss. So, it is regulated by the law of administrative permit that if revoking previously issued permits would cause citizens, legal entities or any organization property loss, the authorities should make compensation,” wrote the report, which indicated it is not sure if owners of the billboards being dismantled this time had already been paid for. Some demolition workers said they were not paid for the job but they got to keep the things that's been torn down.
It's suggested by the Procuratorate Daily all involved parties in the new demolition movement should be given a legislative hearing, so that their opinions could be heard and amendments could be more sensible, ensuring less questioning. “These years, there are less hearings. I'm not sure about the reasons (behind), but I feel it's not good,” wrote the commentator.

The Chengguan committee in charge of city management and inspections told the press that the “specific project” would extend to the whole city, from more urban and central districts to the edge of the city and then extending into the bordering countryside.

Meanwhile, the city management and inspectors are also engaging in efforts to wipe out the city's electric “spider web” which has haunted some residential areas for many years and caused several deaths in recent years. The committee told media the messy electric lines overhead have been put under control, with new ones being strictly controlled and the old ones being gradually phased out.

Billboards hanging on external walls of structures also caused several deaths over the past years in Beijing, especially in windy conditions, according to previous Chinese media reports.
“It is out of question that (we should) adopt more advanced ideas to remodel the city. However, the demolition movement has triggered widespread complaints, just like the previous campaign to clear of migrant population. Emphasizing efficiency while ignoring due procedures and protection of human interests (has led to the result). The campaign style of law enforcement (of the past) is gaining momentum,” wrote the commentary by Procuratorate Daily.

Some netizens commented that “the city is running too fast, leaving most of its people behind,” while another one joked, “I just hope they would not demand for the horizon line to show after this.”


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