Palace Museum faces funds demand

BEIJING – China’s Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, has been urged to disclose its accounts book, following a string of scandals which stirred comments that the operation of the former imperial home was still “forbidden to the public”.

Three doctoral students from China’s elite Peking University sent requests to the Forbidden City and the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday, asking them to release information on the museum’s ticket sales and the usage of money in the past three years.

Li Yuanyuan, one of the three doctoral students, told China Daily they could not find such information on the Forbidden City’s official website, although the museum is obliged to release its revenues and expenses.

“The Palace Museum confirmed it has received the request and will reply after some discussions,” the law student said.

Government administrations must release required information within 15 working days after receiving the request, as long as the information does not involve State secrets, according to China’s Regulation on Open Government Information.

“The Palace Museum in Taiwan releases such information on a regular basis, so I don’t think the revenue and its usage fall under the category of State secrets,” Li said.

Wang Xixin, a law professor at Peking University, said the public is entitled to know the operation and management of the museum, which is a public utility corporation and deals closely with the public.

Feng Nai’en, spokesman for the Forbidden City, said at an earlier press conference that the museum’s average annual revenue totals about 500 million yuan ($77 million), with a ticket price of 60 yuan during peak season and 40 yuan in the off-season.

“All the revenue will be submitted to the Finance Ministry, and the latter will allocate an annual budget to us. Most of the money is used for maintenance,” he said.

Li said the explanation was too vague and the public needs more details to better supervise the management of the museum.

The law students’ request came as the latest domino in a sequence of scandals that has hit the 591-year-old palace and raised concerns about the management capability of one of the world’s most renowned tourist attraction.

Earlier this month, seven antique objects, which were on loan from a private Hong Kong museum, were stolen from the heavily guarded museum. It was the first robbery there in 20 years.

Several days later, the palace was found to have turned one of its gardens into an exclusive club for the wealthy and charged sky-high membership fees.

The company in charge of the club then dismissed its entire staff on suspicion that one or more of them had leaked information about the company’s operation to outsiders, china.com reported.

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