Palace Museum burglar reveals how he got away

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 May, 2011, 12:00am


The man accused of stealing nine valuable artefacts from the Palace Museum in Beijing purportedly made his way out of the highly secure Forbidden City by jumping from a 10-metre-high palace wall.

The Beijing Times yesterday quoted Shi Baikui, a 28-year-old Shandong native arrested 58 hours after the theft early last Monday, as saying that he hid and waited in a tiny room within the restricted area until he was sure that all of the Forbidden City staff members had left. By 10pm all were gone.

He then allegedly broke into an adjacent exhibition hall through a decorative artificial wall, smashed some showcases and grabbed the nine artefacts.

Shi said he fled when he came across a security guard on a routine patrol after midnight.

'Under the protection of darkness, I succeeded in climbing up to the roof of a building, before I jumped to the top of the 10-metre-high palace wall,' Shi said. In order to get away, he had little choice but to jump to the ground from the top of the wall.

Despite new details, questions remain about his alleged escape, as Shi did not say how he managed to avoid 1,600 anti-theft alarms, 3,700 smoke detectors, 400 surveillance cameras and more than 100 dogs.

'I was so scared at that time,' Shi said. During his escape, he discovered that he 'had lost five of the nine valuables I got from the Forbidden City'.

Shi said he dumped the remaining four artefacts in rubbish bins out of anger, after an appraiser told him that all the items he had stolen were fakes.

Palace Museum officials said they had recovered six of the nine stolen items, with three found by museum staff members, two found in a bush along the route Shi escaped and one discovered by detectives around the area where Shi said he consulted an antiques expert. They gave no details about the damage caused,

The report said the police had promised to work tirelessly to recover the three missing artefacts.

Mainland media remain dubious about the purportedly solved crime, with the Qilu Evening News from Shi's home province questioning whether he was a scapegoat.

In a separate story involving the Palace Museum, a manager defended its use of a Chinese character in a banner that the museum sent to the municipal Public Security Bureau to thank it for its efforts in catching the burglar in less than three days, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

One of the two banners given to the police authority read, 'Shake the motherland's prosperity, and protect the capital city's stability'.

The controversy is over the character for 'shake', as many internet users criticised the incorrect use of the character, saying another character meaning 'protect' should have been used.