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Weibo post incites social media backlash against Palace Museum

By Li Yingxue | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-01-18 22:27
The Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen). [Photo/Official Sina Weibo account of the Palace Museum]

The Palace Museum was driven into a maelstrom of negative public opinion due to a Weibo post on Friday showing a woman had parked a car inside the Forbidden City on a day when the site was closed.

On the afternoon of Jan 17, a Sina Weibo account nicknamed Lu Xiaobao posted four photos and the caption "Playing around in the Palace Museum on a closure day to avoid the flow of people." The four photos showed the Weibo blogger and a friend making different poses in front of a black Mercedes-Benz parked in the corner of the square in front of the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen).

The post soon triggered outrage among netizens. Some netizens demanded further investigation into the incident and a detailed explanation of how people are allowed to drive cars into the Palace Museum, and others expressed disappointment for the failure to protect the site of the world cultural heritage.

The official Weibo account of the Palace Museum replied six hours after the post, confirming the car entered the Palace Museum on the museum's scheduled closure day, and apologized for the oversight.

The reply post received more than 3.7 million likes and the topic "Palace Museum replies to Mercedes-Benz entering" has been discussed 27,000 times and read 130 million times.

The hottest comment of the reply said staff members, as depicted in the documentary Masters in the Forbidden City, ride bikes to work to avoid damaging the route in the museum.

In 2013, the then-director of the Palace Museum Shan Jixiang banned driving in the open area of the Palace Museum to show respect for ancient Chinese culture. He explained driving was also forbidden at Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom and Versailles in France.

According to Shan, on April 26, 2013, when then-French President Francois Hollande visited the Forbidden City with his girlfriend, their motorcade was stopped from entering. So he had to get off his car and got inside the museum on foot.

From then on, foreign guests have had to leave their cars outside the Meridian Gate and walk into the Palace Museum.

In 2015, Shan said at a forum in Tianjin the Palace Museum is planning to move out all the parking lots inside.

After the discussion on Weibo, Lu explained she was visiting the Palace Museum for an exhibition and was allowed to drive through the Western Flower Gate (Xihuamen).

According to her account on Weibo, she was an employee of Air China. The airline told Beijing News she was a flight attendant, but did not work there anymore.

The woman has since deleted all her Weibo posts.

According to the Beijing News, the owner of the Mercedes-Benz said the blogger was her friend and she was invited to an event at the Palace Museum.

A staff member of the Palace Museum told Beijing News: "We do not accept any tourists on Monday. But there might be some groups with which we have cooperative relationships coming for meetings on Monday, and that might involve some group visits."

They added only staff can drive through the Western Flower Gate, and can only park in areas off-limits to public visits. Parking in the square in front of the Gate of Supreme Harmony is strictly forbidden.

It was the third time the Palace Museum was on Weibo's top search list during the past week, after the offer of a "reunion dinner" during Spring Festival at the Corner Tower Restaurant with a cost of $970, and the subsequent cancellation of the dinner. There has been no further explanation of the issue by the museum.

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