The 41st session of the World Heritage Committee decided to add a large nature reserve at Hol Xil — 可可西里 kěkě xīlǐ in Chinese — to its World Heritage List. The vast park is located in the northwest of Qinghai Province, covering 45,000 square kilometers of almost uninhabited land.
Part of the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Hol Xil is home to more than 200 species of wild animals, including the endangered Tibetan antelope, or chiru, whose existence has been threatened for years due to excessive poaching. Most people who live in the area are Tibetan nomads, who maintain their pre-modern lifestyle of sleeping in tents and raising livestock.
According to the New York Times, China’s request for UNESCO’s special recognition of Hol Xil was not welcomed by everyone. Over the years, the International Campaign of Tibet, a Washington-based advocacy group, has been challenging the move, arguing that the designation would harm the area’s fragile ecosystem by transforming it into a “no man’s zone” where all local inhabitants would be resettled.
Online, most internet users celebrated the news and expressed willingness to visit Hol Xil in the future, while some are concerned that the area would be overexploited for tourism purposes. “Visitors are planning their trips already. I hope the inscription will force the local government to better protect the area, rather than developing it into another tourist spot,” one commenter wrote (in Chinese).
Hol Xil has become China’s 51st site on the UNESCO list, with the country second only to Italy in quantity of locations. This year’s World Heritage Committee session, which is taking place in Poland from July 2 to 12, will also review another candidate from China: Gulangyu, a pedestrian-only island full of colonial architecture off the coast of Xiamen in Fujian Province.
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