Officials are trying tofigure out how thieves broke into China's famed Forbidden City, the heavily guarded former home of the country's emperors, and stole seven art pieces made of gold and jewels.
It was the first theft in 20 years from the historic site, spokesman Feng Nai'en said. "For this to happen here shows us that we need to speed up the modernization and installation of our security systems. “ Guards saw a suspect fleeing the scene early Monday but failed to stop him.
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 from the temporary exhibition, on loan from the private Liang Yi Museum in Hong Kong. Two of the missing items were recovered nearby and were slightly damaged.
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.
Hundreds of thousands of rare and valuable pieces originally housed in the Forbidden City were secreted away to Taipei's Palace Museum when Taiwan split from the mainland during a civil war 62 years ago.
China still claims Taiwan as part of its own territory and insists the art at Taipei's Palace Museum rightfully belongs on the mainland.
Beijing's Palace Museum lent dozens of items to Taiwan for an exhibition in 2009, but Taiwan is still hesitant to lend China artifacts out of fear that they would not be returned.