Some local governments and companies in China are colluding to destroy old buildings in the name of development or tourism, ignoring laws supposed to offer protection in a bid for quick profit, state media said on Tuesday.
Half of the 40,000 buildings and other historic sites lost in the last three decades have vanished because of real estate development, despite a cultural protection law in place since 1982, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"Some local government and industry representatives take it on themselves to demolish historic cultural neighbourhoods, historic buildings and other sites during construction work," Xinhua said, citing a report to parliament.
They "destroy the cultural environment and historic ambiance, painstakingly avoiding archaeological surveys to carry out construction work", it said.
Some sites and buildings have been badly damaged because of excessive use by the tourist industry. China is also plagued by theft and smuggling of cultural artefacts, Xinhua said.
"There is a mismatch in our position as an ancient, civilised country and the way we protect cultural artefacts," Lu Yongxiang, a deputy head of parliament, was quoted as saying.
Breakneck development has claimed much of China's heritage with old opera houses, homes and temples making way for malls, highways and office towers.