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Shi Baikui, 27, appears at the Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing on Mar 19, 2012. Shi is sentenced to 13 years in jail and fined 13,000 yuan ($2,063) for stealing art pieces from the Forbidden City last year. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING - A Chinese farmer has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for stealing art pieces from the Forbidden City last year.
Shi Baikui, 27, was also fined 13,000 yuan ($2,063) and was deprived of his political rights for three years, according to the ruling announced by the Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing on Monday morning.
The court held first trial of Shi's case on Feb 17.
Shi, from East China's Shandong province, broke into the heavily guarded former home of Chinese emperors in the heart of Beijing, and stole nine pieces of art works made of gold and jewels, on May 8, 2011, the court said in a statement.
While hastily escaping, Shi left behind five of the pieces in the Forbidden City's compound. Failing to immediately sell the treasures, he threw the other four pieces away the next day, the document said.
Six pieces were recovered and the three missing were estimated to be worth 150,000 yuan ($23,800) in total.
Shi was apprehended by police at an Internet cafe in Beijing's Fengtai district 58 hours after the theft.
Court investigators found he had stolen a laptop computer, a cell phone and a wallet containing 500 yuan on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.
The court statement said Shi's punishment had been meted out with leniency because he had confessed to the thefts in a candid and cooperative manner and repented for his wrongdoing.
Shi said during trial that the theft was a "spur-of-the-moment" act. He said he was able to disrupt the alarm system.
The incident sparked public concern over security loopholes in the Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, in the heart of Beijing.
The museum's newly appointed curator, Shan Jixiang, said the management had long been aware that the existing alarm system was outdated and a four-year upgrade began in November 2009. By last December, about 60 percent of the work had been completed.
In an interview with Xinhua last week, Shan said the museum must employ "the world's most advanced security equipment and technology."
Once the upgrading is completed, security workers may use screens to instantly monitor sites where an alarm is triggered, he said.