Calls for an investigation after woman drove into Beijing’s Forbidden City

Mandy Zuo

A Chinese woman who drove her luxury SUV into Beijing’s Forbidden City and posted pictures online has prompted a public search for information about her, while state media called for the case to be investigated.

The photos – showing two women standing in front of a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen parked in the World Heritage Site, which banned vehicles in 2013 – were posted on microblog site Weibo on Friday under the name “LuxiaobaoLL”. It was captioned: “As it is closed on Monday, [we] avoided tourists and enjoyed the palace.” The post went viral and drew tens of thousands of comments.

The Palace Museum, which runs the 600-year-old landmark, later apologised, confirming that a car had been allowed to enter the complex on Monday last week when it was closed to the public.

It did not identify the pair, but said it would “stop it from happening again”.

Lu Xiaobao claims she is married to the grandson of revolutionary hero He Changgong. Photo: Weibo

Social media user Lu Xiaobao, who posted the photos of herself and a friend, has claimed to be the wealthy granddaughter-in-law of a Chinese revolutionary hero, and that her fortune includes a house in Los Angeles worth more than US$11 million.

Lu herself and the family she says she married into have so far remained silent, and the claims could not be independently verified. But irate social media users have been digging online for information on her background as they push for an official explanation.

Some are concerned that flouting the car ban risked damaging the Ming dynasty complex, and the incident has also reinforced a widespread perception that certain people are granted privileges, denied to ordinary Chinese, because of their family connections.

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Social media users seized on one of Lu’s Instagram posts featuring a house she claims to have bought in 2018. The property is apparently owned by Wang Zhijie, wife of Liu Zhongtian, the billionaire founder of aluminium products maker China Zhongwang, raising suspicion that Lu could be connected to the family.

But the company denied there was any link with the woman in a statement issued on Sunday. “Mr Liu himself doesn’t know LuxiaobaoLL or her relatives directly,” it said.

State media has also weighed in on the case, with People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, running a scathing commentary on Saturday calling for a thorough investigation by the Palace Museum.

“People are distressed because our national heritage and culture – which we treasure – has been damaged,” the commentary read. “People are furious because there are still people trying to challenge the consensus that the 600-year-old Forbidden City is no longer a private property for feudal privilege.”

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Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid Global Times, also called for a better explanation of the incident.

The woman has claimed that she is married to He Gang, the grandson of He Changgong, who joined the party in 1922, a year after it was established, and played an important role in its early development.

But Hu wrote on Weibo that if the woman’s claim was true, her background was “not so eminent” since He Changgong had not taken any important positions after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

The Palace Museum banned vehicles from the Forbidden City in 2013 to protect the complex. The ban has been strictly enforced, including when former French president Francois Hollande visited that year and had to leave his car outside and walk into the palace.

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