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Court to hear case of theft from Palace Museum

01-21-2012 11:46 BJT

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

BEIJING - The man suspected of stealing artifacts from the Palace Museum will face trial after Spring Festival, the capital's intermediate court said.

"We have accepted the case regarding the theft in the museum," Li Zhitao, a legal officer at Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court, told China Daily on Friday, adding the suspect is being prosecuted for larceny.

Shi Bokui, a 27-year-old farmer from Caoxian county, East China's Shandong province, stands accused of stealing nine artifacts from the museum on the evening of May 8 and then running away, after being caught by a security guard, according to court documents.

Shi, who had lived in Beijing for four years, hid in a remote path in the Forbidden City museum, then kicked a hole in a wall of an area under repair to break into the Hall of Abstinence, according to police.

The artifacts, small, gold purses and cosmetics containers covered with jewels, made between 1920 and 1945, were on loan from the private Hong Kong Liangyi Museum and were part of a temporary exhibit at the Palace Museum, according to court documents.

Shi was arrested on June 1 after his fingerprint, found at an Internet bar in the Fengtai district of the capital on May 11, matched fingerprints from the crime scene, according to police.

Police have recovered six of the stolen artifacts. The three remaining pieces have together an insured value of 150,000 yuan ($23,760).

Prosecutors consider the thefts extremely serious because they occurred at a national cultural site and that had a huge negative impact on society, said Zhi Ruixian, an officer of the Second Branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate.

"The exact time of the trial has not yet been set - maybe a few days after Spring Festival," Zhi said.

If convicted, Shi could face life imprisonment. Previously, the death penalty would have been possible, but it was abolished for larceny by an amendment to the Criminal Law, which took effect on May 1, said Han Yusheng, deputy director of the criminal law research center at the Renmin University of China

The charges are very serious, Han said, because Shi is accused of stealing artifacts that cannot be copied, the most serious form of larceny.

Regarding the change to the Criminal Law, Han said the severity of the penalty for larceny has no direct effect on the frequency of such cases.

Zhang Shuwei, director of Beijing Art Museum, said the best way to protect artifacts is to increase the awareness of the responsibility of museum workers.

"We have advanced technology, such as monitors and electric eyes, to maintain the security of museums now, but the really effective protection is the workers themselves. After all, monitors need people to watch them," he said.

Zhang also suggested greater attention be given to protecting artifacts in traditional buildings, "because those old edifices are a kind of art in themselves, which limits on monitoring devices that can be installed."

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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