Thousands of villagers forced from homes as Chinese authorities move to protect a 600-year-old burial site.
More than 15,000 people, from 16 villages, are being moved from a sprawling world heritage site near Beijing, which contains tombs from the Ming dynasty. Surprisingly, officials have said that the residents need to be moved only so that the site can be protected.
This burial site is the resting place for 13 Ming emperors, their wives, dozens of concubines and princes who lived between 1409 and 1644.
Over time, grave keepers and their descendants have settled near the tombs and formed villages. In the region of 20,000 people live among the graves, yet when Beijing applied for Unesco world heritage status for the tombs in 2003 it promised to clear out the villagers to protect the historic relics that are scattered across the 87 sq km area.
The head of the local district of Changping, Zhang Yanyou, informed the local newspaper Beijing Youth Daily that the government has plans to build a new community to resettle the villagers. However, until this happens, they have been told that they are no longer allowed to refurbish their houses in the affected area.