Spot the differences in the photos.
Difficult, isn’t it? Don’t they both show Hallstatt, the beautiful Austrian town which has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Of course, the picture below shows the outcome of an ambitious housing project by Minmetals Land Ltd., a subsidiary of China’s mining company Minmetals Corporation – a full scale replica of the town in Huizhou, Guangdong, which is about 100 miles north of Hong Kong. According to Crystal He, the person in charge of the project, this 20,000-square metre upmarket residential area not only targets the well-to-do in China but also the foreigners living in Hong Kong, helping the latter cure their homesickness. There is no doubt that those foreigners will fall for it, especially because, according to He, there will be a shop selling “Austrian-style” (not Austrian, mind you!) crystal and other souvenirs. I’m sure they will feel more at home than in their own countries.
Authenticity issue apart, there is also the integrity issue. The fact is that China has copied the town of another country, having been clandestinely conducting the research and surveying the town for years. Even if it does not amount to infringement of intellectual property, as Moniker Wenger, owner of a guest house in Hallstatt claimed. "They should have asked the owners of the hotel and the other buildings if we agree with the idea to rebuild Hallstatt in China, and they did not," said Wenger. The copycat version has angered the residents of Hallstatt, who think that this sort of copying without permission is like “a painter stealing the works of others”. The local media had requested that the government try to intervene on their behalf, and the residents were furious about the tolerant attitude of the government. When a Hallstatt delegation attended the opening of the replica town on 2 June, Mayor Alexander Scheutz, who signed a cultural exchange agreement Saturday with the new Hallstatt, diplomatically said that "we are very proud".
The truth is that not even the residents of Huizhou were proud of the project, as some were skeptical that the replica would ever match the beauty of the original. "Chinese architecture is very characteristic and stylish," said Zhong Ping, a Huizhou resident. "Just work on your own style. Why do you have to copy others? Even the flowers are fake, I can tell they are fake at first glance."