he Forbidden City didn’t exactly live up to its name earlier this week when a woman was allowed to drive her luxury SUV into the 600-year-old imperial residence.
On Friday, several photos went viral on Chinese social media showing a pair of young women wearing fashionable clothing posing in front of a Mercedes Benz G-Class SUV parked in a courtyard inside the otherwise-empty historic palace complex.
The images were posted by a Weibo user named Lu Xiaobao with the caption, “Since it’s closed on Monday, we avoided the crowds and went to have fun in the Forbidden City.”
While Lu went on to quickly delete the photos, by that time it was already too late and the images were widely shared across Weibo, becoming one of the hottest topics of the day with netizens questioning how a private vehicle was allowed to be driven into one of China’s most famous and heavily-secured historic sites.
By Friday evening, the Palace Museum came forward with an apology, vowing to strengthen security measures and never allow something like this to happen again.
It remains to be explained how exactly this did happen. The Forbidden City is closed most Mondays for renovation and maintenance. No private vehicles are allowed on the grounds, a prohibition that isn’t even lifted for visiting heads of state.
Following some sleuthing, netizens have concluded that Lu is likely wealthy and well-connected. Her Weibo profile says that she’s an Air China flight attendant. However, the airline has said that she left the company years ago.