He Shuzhong— 2004 Outstanding Public Service Award
Few individuals embody the spirit of public service more completely than He Shuzhong, a tireless advocate for the remarkable ancient patrimony of China. As Director of the Division of Legislation and Policies at the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in Beijing, Mr. He is a skillful administrator who applies his professional expertise and personal devotion to draft national legislation and promote international cooperation. Representing China in numerous international venues, he participated in the early negotiations for the 200I Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and shepherded the proposal for China's accession to the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illicitly Exported Cultural Objects. His contributions have not only been productive in the realm of international policy, they have also made a tangible impact on local communities. Constantly on the move throughout the thirty provinces of China over the past twenty years, He Shuzhong has facilitated training seminars for many thousands of customs and security personnel, curators, archaeologists, art dealers, lawyers, magistrates, and school students. Citizens have been mobilized as stewards of their own heritage, working as his eyes and ears on the ground to protect a cultural legacy of global importance.
He Shuzhong's mission is to close the gap between policy and practice. His successes are notable. Working with minuscule resources, he founded Cultural Heritage Watch in 1998. Private non-profit initiatives were still a novelty when Cultural Heritage Watch was established, and it remains the only NGO in its field in mainland China. In just a few years, He Shuzhong and his associates have built an effective organization that advises on the conservation of historic monuments, offers university lectures on heritage law, and engages journalists to enhance media coverage of the issues. Through their efforts, antiquities markets and construction projects near fragile sites are carefully monitored and abuses are registered. Frequent progress reports circulate on the internet, launching a boldly critical dialogue on threats to heritage from development, environmental change, tourism, and commercialization.
Challenges to the safeguarding of historic sites in a vast country, abundantly endowed with the remains of a brilliant civilization, are manifold. Appreciation of China's extraordinary contributions to world culture, however, is hampered by widespread clandestine excavation. This occurs just at the moment when our understanding of Chinese antiquity is being transformed by a rapidly expanding recognition of its originality, contexts, and interconnections. The government of China works strenuously to confront the challenge of protecting and preserving its heritage. He Shuzhong's determined efforts to stem the illicit trafficking of art and artifacts have been instrumental in restitution claims for such national treasures as a large stone Bodhisattva from Shandong Province and a wall relief from the tomb of Wang Chuzhi in Hebei Province. His brand of advocacy also entails great risk and sacrifice. During video filming of tomb-robbery in progress in Inner Mongolia, a confrontation with the looters forced He Shuzhong and fellow activists into the icy Laoha River. This is but one of many anti-looting efforts in which he has invested significant time and personal financial resources. He Shuzhong has demonstrated tremendous courage in the face of danger, indifference, and opposition. He represents living proof that a committed individual can make a real difference.
In recognition of his exceptional achievements in promoting international public awareness and appreciation of archaeological heritage, the Archaeological Institute of America is honored to present its 2004 Outstanding Public Service Award to He Shuzhong of the People's Republic of China.