Viral photographs of two women posing in front of a luxury SUV in the Forbidden City has triggered a furore on social media. Vehicles have been banned on the heritage site since 2013. Furthermore, one of the women said that she had been allowed in on Monday, when the tourist attraction is normally shut to members of the public.

On one hand, questions have been raised as to why the two women have been allowed to bring the vehicle into the site. On the other hand, others have expressed concern that bringing the car on site would risk damaging the 600-year old heritage site.

Additionally, it has stirred up public ire because it fuels the public perception that certain people are treated like royalty and granted privileges because of their family connections or wealth. The woman who posted the photograph had previously claimed that she was related to senior officials.

Read the full article on South China Morning Post: Beijing’s Forbidden City sparks fury after allowing pair to flout car ban inside World Heritage Site


The state media in China has castigated the woman for obviously ignoring the rules relating to the protection of the Chinese cultural relics. Pointing to her flagrant violation of the rules and the boldness to post online, the woman has been criticised for her privilege. When she posted the photo, it was accompanied with a caption boasting that she avoided the tourists on a Monday.

What is it about privilege that emboldens us to bend the rules for our gains and shuts our eyes to the consequences of our actions? Understandably, people are  upset that those with the right connections receive preferential treatment. This violates our sense of justice because people can get ahead by virtue of who they are and not by any merit of theirs. Besides, in this particular incident, this comes at the expense of endangering their national treasure. 

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. While the Palace Museum administration that manages the Forbidden City has been sharply criticised, what do you think are some of the pressure factors and potential consequences if it had refused the request?
  2. Do you think that preferential treatment for those with the right connections exists in Singapore? Why or why not?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘furore: an outbreak of public anger or excitement
  2. ‘castigate’: reprimand (someone) severely