Caixin
Jan 20, 2020 02:37 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

How Did Two Women Drive a Luxury SUV Into the Forbidden City?

Visitors walk through a gate at the Forbidden City's in Beijing
Visitors walk through a gate at the Forbidden City's in Beijing

The Palace Museum, which runs the former imperial complex in Beijing, came under pressure from outraged Chinese web users to investigate an incident that appeared to violate a ban on cars inside the 600-year-old Forbidden City.

Photos went viral Friday on the microblogging site Weibo showing a pair of young women posing with a luxury SUV inside China’s historic imperial palace. The incident set off a public outcry as Weibo users cited potential damage to a protected World Heritage site while decrying liberties being taken by apparently wealthy individuals.

“The Forbidden City has not changed in 600 years,” said one user. “It is still the backyard of the privileged.”

The incident also set off an online hunt for the people in the photos. The pictures were posted Friday afternoon by a user under the name of “LuxiaobaoLL.” The caption reads: “As [the Palace Museum is] closed on Monday, [we were able to] avoid tourists and enjoy the palace.”

In a statement Friday, the Palace Museum confirmed the incident, which took place Monday, and apologized without mentioning any potential investigation into how the pair was able to drive the SUV into the venerated cultural site. Vehicles have been banned from the complex since 2013.

“The Palace Museum was deeply distressed and sincerely apologizes to the public,” the organization said in the statement. “In the future, we will manage strictly and make sure such incident will never happen again.”

The statement seemed only to fuel the outrage. In the past three days, it attracted more than 300,000 comments blasting the museum for mismanaging the palace and permitting privileges for the wealthy over ordinary people.

“I won’t accept such a meaningless statement,” said one Weibo user on Sunday, “Who allowed them to drive in? Why there has been no news yet?”

“Those who were responsible for the incident to happen should be held accountable,” said another user.

Web users mined the internet for information about LuxiaobaoLL, posting unsubstantiated details in a practice known as doxxing. The posts included a property valued at more than $11.8 million in wealthy Newport Beach, California, allegedly owned by the woman.

In her Weibo biography, the woman identified herself as a flight attendant for Air China, but the company told Beijing Daily Friday that she left in 2018.

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com)

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