BEIJING, May 11 – Police in Beijing are hunting for a 27-year-old man suspected of stealing several items from the Forbidden City, in a rare theft at China\’s ancient imperial palace, state press said Wednesday.
Officials at the Forbidden City told police that seven items belonging to an exhibit on loan from a private Hong Kong museum and valued at up to 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) were stolen on Sunday, the Beijing News said.
After viewing video surveillance tapes, police are seeking the man as the chief suspect in the theft, the paper said.
Telephone calls to the Forbidden City went unanswered Wednesday, but a posting on the Palace Museum\’s microblog confirmed that the theft took place.
The missing items, which date from the early 20th century, include jewellery boxes and women\’s make-up cases, the report said.
The items were taken from the Zhai Gong exhibit hall in the northeastern part of the sprawling palace, where the display was to continue until June 27, it added. The section was closed to tourists following the incident.
The exhibit was on loan from the Liangyicang museum, which is owned by a Hong Kong collector identified as Feng Yaohui, the paper said.
In the most recent theft attempt at the heavily guarded Forbidden City, police in 1987 captured a man identified as Xiang Dexiang, who was unsuccessful but was still sentenced to life in prison, the Global Times reported.
According to police records, only four thefts have been recorded at the Forbidden City between 1949 and 1987, the paper said.
Located in central Beijing, the Forbidden City was first built in the early decades of the 15th century and served as the imperial palace of China\’s Ming and Qing Dynasties.
It was transformed into the Palace Museum in 1925 after the fall of the Qing.