Viral photos showing two women who were allowed to drive a luxury SUV into Beijing’s Forbidden City have triggered a national furore.
Vehicles have been banned from the complex since 2013 and the incident has raised questions about why the women, one of whom claimed to be related to senior officials, were permitted to bring the vehicle into the site, parts of which were once reserved for emperors and their family.
Others expressed concern that flouting the car ban risked damaging the 600-year-old World Heritage Site, which dates back to the Ming dynasty.
It also reinforced a widespread public perception that certain people are treated like royalty and granted privileges denied to ordinary Chinese people because of their family connections.
The pictures, showing the pair standing besides a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, were posted on the microblogging site Weibo on Friday under the name “LuxiaobaoLL”, with the caption: “As it is closed on Monday, [we] avoided tourists and enjoyed the palace.”
The post was widely circulated, attracting tens of thousands of comments.
On Friday evening, the Palace Museum, which now runs the complex, posted a statement on Weibo admitting that a vehicle had been allowed to enter the Forbidden City on Monday.
Many commentators expressed indignation at privileges and freebies perceived to be dished out to China’s rich elites. ‘Such behaviour is hurtful to the citizens,’ said one angry user.