BEIJING – Museum security review as man detained over art theft

Museum security review as man detained over art theft — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New.:

Museum security review as man detained over art theft — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New

May 12, 2011


Source: Agencies/Shanghai Daily |   2011-5-12  |    NEWSPAPER EDITION

Photographs released by Palace Museum show the seven art pieces stolen from an exhibit at the famed Forbidden City, the heavily guarded former home of China’s emperors. The gold pieces, encrusted with jewels, were on loan from the private Liang Yi Museum in Hong Kong.

More in photo gallery

BEIJING police said last night that they had detained a man suspected of stealing seven art pieces from the Palace Museum in Beijing’s heavily-guarded Forbidden City.

The suspect, Shi Baikui, 28, from Caoxian County of Shandong Province in east China, was detained by police at 7:40pm in Fengtai District in Beijing, 58 hours after the relics were stolen, reported the China Central Television, citing the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

He was caught at an Internet cafe in Fengtai.

Police also recovered some of the stolen artifacts, the television station said, without specifying how they located the suspect.

Shi has lived in the capital city for about four years.

Lack of money moved him to pull off the heist on Monday, Shi reportedly told police.

The stolen items were on loan from the Hong Kong-based Liang Yi Museum and were discovered missing at 8:20am on Monday.

As of now, Shi confessed he had stolen the relics in the Palace Museum and he was detained, police said last night, revealing no more details about the man.

Police said some of the stolen items have been recovered. An investigation is still under way.

According to the police, a museum staff member found and questioned a “suspicious” man in the museum at 10:30pm on Sunday night. The man fled when the worker called museum authorities to report his presence.

Nine art pieces made of gold and jewels were later found to be missing from a temporary exhibition.

It was the first theft in 20 years from the historic site, spokesman Feng Nai’en said yesterday afternoon, adding that security would be increased.

“For this to happen here shows us that, No. 1, we need to speed up the modernization and installation of our security systems,” Feng said. “No. 2, we need to find out if we can implement better, more sophisticated security systems.”

Guards saw a suspect fleeing the scene early Monday but failed to apprehend him, Feng said.

An investigation found that nine pieces – all small Western-style gold purses and mirrored compacts covered with jewels made in the 20th century – were missing.

Two of the items were recovered nearby and were slightly damaged.

Feng said the entire Palace Museum will be checked to see if any other items are missing.

Wang Xiahong, curator of the Liang Yi Museum, refused to reveal the value of the stolen items, which belong to Hong Kong art collector Fung Yiu Fai.

She said that despite the theft, the exhibition would continue and other pieces would be added to the show, which is temporarily closed but expected to reopen soon.

The museum’s deputy director, Ma Jige, told reporters he felt “very guilty and sorry.”

The Palace Museum last encountered a case of theft in 1991. That was eventually solved, according to Xinhua news agency.

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