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Locals appeal to save school

RESIDENTS near Zhongshan Park yesterday appealed to urban planning authorities to protect a 128-year-old former school in the area.

According to the district's urban planning authorities, only one building of the former St Mary's Hall, where Chinese writer Eileen Chang was educated, will remain intact, while the others will be knocked down or relocated to make room for office buildings. Yang Yu-xian, one of the residents who launched the request, said she wanted the school to be preserved as it is.

"The whole school, including all seven buildings, plus a sheltered walkway and its lawns, are delicate and beautiful," said the 59-year-old, who has been living in the area for seven years. "We all feel heartache about its demolition."

Yang said even if all the old buildings were relocated, this would not satisfy the locals, as the modern high-rises surrounding the old school would ruin its atmosphere.

Yang and several dozen other residents have written to the Shanghai Urban Planning Administrative Bureau's Changning District branch to protest.

The Changning District urban planning authorities, however, explained that only one building, a bell tower, was recognized as one of the city's protected cultural relics, which means it cannot be knocked down or moved. Another five buildings, however, can be moved, but not be demolished.

"Local real estate authorities and this department have approved the project," said Ling Zhaojin, an official with the bureau. "The developers can now decide how and where to move the buildings."

However, some experts with the Shanghai Management Committee of Cultural Relics were on the residents' side.

"The school needs to be protected to maintain its atmosphere," said Kong Lisan, an official with the committee.

Built in 1881, St Mary's Hall received girls from prominent local families. Eileen Chang is one of the school's most famous former pupils.


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