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Forbidden City's folly

Updated: 2011-05-17 07:57

(China Daily)

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The burglary in one of the halls of the Forbidden City in Beijing on May 8 made the whole nation worried. None of the Forbidden City's precious relics should be in the hands of thieves.

But there is one more thing worrying us - a joint venture company affiliated to the Palace Museum has been accused of planning to run a club within its walls for rich people.

Following the hubbub surrounding the claims, the museum has said that it understands people's concerns but the venue is used for such events as receptions, forums and press conferences. It says the company's plan to open such a club has not been approved by the museum.

But the museum still needs to answer certain questions from the public. Why did the company forge ahead with the plan without the permission of the Forbidden City? Although the museum has now suspended such operations, they should not have skirted the issue for days.

The museum should conform to the country's laws on the protection of relics and cultural heritage.

Formerly a symbol of imperial power, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO world culture heritage site.

In UNESCO's words, "world heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located." They are identified, protected and preserved for their outstanding value to humanity.

Whether or not it has been doing so, the Forbidden City should never be able to set aside a hall as a private venue for personal gain.

No doubt the appeal of the Forbidden City is the fact that it is the palace of emperors. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the imperial palace was off limits to unauthorized personnel.

As a State property, the Forbidden City should serve the public. The caretakers of the Forbidden City have let us all down. An ordinary thief can sneak away exhibits in the Palace Museum where top-notch security devices are installed.

On top of this, the Forbidden City has now added one more insult. It gave the Beijing police officers who caught the burglar a silk banner as a thank-you gift. It wanted to praise the policemen for "safeguarding" the country's power and prosperity, instead it used a homonym of the opposite meaning.

Though the museum finally issued an apology, the word on the banner again reveals their astonishing lack of regard for the culture they are supposed to safeguard.

(China Daily 05/17/2011 page8)


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