Eight paintings are missing from the rostrum where Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People's Republic of China, the latest scandal involving cultural institutions on the mainland.
The paintings were donated to the Tiananmen Rostrum in the 1990s by five artists, including Cheng Shifa and Wang Chengxi, according to an unnamed whistle-blower who reported the disappearance to a government agency, The Beijing News reported yesterday.
It was also reported that mould had formed on some paintings on the rostrum because of inadequate maintenance, according to a 2007 asset check of government institutions in Beijing.
The Tiananmen Square district management committee, which manages the area and operates under the Beijing municipal government, is following up on the case.
Committee spokesman Shao Wei confirmed the investigation was taking place but could not comment further until it was completed.
One of the donors, Wu Tuanliang, chairman of the Heilongjiang Artist Association, told The Beijing News that investigators visited him a week ago in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, for information on his painting.
The revelation once again calls into question the credibility of cultural organisations. The Forbidden City's Palace Museum has been at the centre of controversy for months, with a string of irregularities and mismanagement scandals.
The newspaper also reported that compounds and gardens in the Summer Palace in the capital had been rented out to organisations or individuals. Nearly 8 per cent of its 335.5 hectares was involved. The figures were given at a forum about the preservation of Beijing.
Li Bochun, whose Chinese Cultural Renaissance Institute promotes traditional Chinese culture, said the widespread mismanagement of artworks stemmed from a lack of morality among government officials and the relentless pursuit of commercial gain.