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Visitor detained after damage at museum

By Li Qian (Shanghai Daily)

08:12, May 06, 2013

Beijing's Palace Museum Curator Shan Jixiang talks to journalists at the museum's Palace of Blessings to Mother Earth (Yi Kun Gong) on Sunday after an antique clock was damaged by a tourist on Saturday. Lin Hui / For China Daily

Beijing's Palace Museum is tightening security and installing more surveillance cameras to protect its treasures after a disgruntled visitor smashed a window at the weekend, damaging an antique clock.

The 22-year-old man from central Hubei Province, surnamed Wang, was detained after he was spotted breaking the window at Yikungong, or Palace of Earthly Honor, on Saturday morning.

Witnesses said the suspect became angry when he was prevented from taking pictures and suddenly struck the window, according to the Beijing News and Beijing Times newspapers. The clock fell from a shelf after the window was shattered.

The ornate mantle clock was made by a British craftsman in the 18th century. Its glass cover was broken and some metal parts broken or bent.

Museum official Zhao Nan said he heard glass breaking and caught Wang at the scene. Wang seemed tongue-tied when he was asked why he had broken the window and was said to have mumbled: "If I don't break the glass, the glass will beat me" and "I should have found a place where there were fewer people."

Beijing police said Wang had been detained on suspicion of deliberately destroying cultural relics. He received medical treatment for cuts to his right hand and it is believed he severed a tendon in his middle finger.

Built in 1417, Yikungong was the residence of concubines in the Forbidden City in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today's visitors aren't allowed to enter and can only see the interior from the outside.

Museum officials said more high-definition cameras were to be installed and more management officials would be mobilized to ensure there were no blind spots in the complex.

An ongoing program to add protective material to the windows and doors of every palace and hall is being stepped up, they said.

The enhanced security measures will form part of a comprehensive plan to upgrade the museum in preparation for its 600th anniversary in 2020. Major projects include restoring cultural relics and rebuilding infrastructure and work to reduce the potential risk of fires, earthquakes, natural damage and theft, said curator Shan Jixiang.

The Palace Museum has experienced several robberies and thefts in recent years.

The cases include a "spur-of-the-moment" theft in which nine items on loan from a Hong Kong-based museum were stolen.

Shi Baikui, 28, from Shandong Province, stole the art pieces on May 8, 2011. In his rush to escape he left behind five of the pieces in the Forbidden City's compound. He threw the other four pieces away after he failed to find a buyer. Six pieces have been recovered.

The three missing items are estimated to be worth 150,000 yuan (US$24,350).

Shi was jailed for 13 years last year.

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