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    All Chinese museums to have free admission by 2009

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    BEIJING, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Chinese government has signed a decree scraping admission charges for national museums by 2009 in an effort to improve cultural services, the Xinhua news agency said.

    "All museums, memorial halls and national patriotism education bases will be free to visit by 2009," a government circular said. Other cultural and historical sites will have cheap rates for low-income visitors, the disabled, the elderly and children.

    Currently, an average Chinese visitor pays up to $8 for a ticket, a sum equivalent to a week's income for a rural family.

    In Beijing, the price for a museum ticket can reach up to $10 for adults, while a foreign tourist pays twice as much. China like Russia operates a dual-pricing policy for foreigners.

    However, a foreign student at a Chinese university pays only $7 to visit the Chinese imperial palace, Forbidden City. The circular did not specify whether museum entry would be free for foreigners.

    China has more than 2,300 museums displaying more than 20 million exhibits. Over 150 million people visited Chinese museums last year.

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