Chinese officials condemn Franklin Institute after terracotta warrior thumb theft
Officials in China are giving the Franklin Institute two thumbs down for its handling of a partygoer who allegedly stole a digit off a 2,000-year-old statue.
Officials in China are giving the Franklin Institute two thumbs down for its handling of a party-goer who allegedly stole a digit off a 2,000-year-old terracotta warrior statue.
The director of the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, a government-affiliated organization responsible for lending the statues, appeared Monday on CCTV, a Chinese TV network, accusing the institute of being "careless" with the artifact, the BBC reported.
"We ask that the U.S. severely punish the perpetrator," the organization's Wu Haiyun said, according to the BBC. "We have lodged a serious protest with them."
The center has offered to send its own experts to the institute to help repair the statue, but will file a "claim for compensation," according to news reports.
Stefanie Santo, a spokeswoman for the institute, said Monday that the organization has the "utmost respect" for the statues as well as "the rich Chinese cultural heritage they embody."
She said in a statement: "This was a deplorable act, and we share in the condemnation of this crime as expressed by our partners at the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center. The institute has been working with the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office to ensure that justice for the individual responsible is served. We will continue to cooperate fully with our partners in China to maintain and protect the warriors with the utmost care and reverence."
The uproar comes a week after the Inquirer and Daily News reported that federal agents arrested 24-year-old Michael Rohana of Delaware on suspicion of breaking off and stealing a thumb of The Cavalryman, one of the statues on display as part of the institute's "Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor" exhibit.
Officials said that incident happened in December, while Rohana was at the institute for an "Ugly Sweater Party." Wearing a green sweater and a Phillies hat, Rohana allegedly sneaked into the closed exhibit and snapped a few selfies with the terracotta statue, which is valued at $4.5 million.
That's when the statue's thumb went missing, though the institute didn't notice the disappearance until well after the event.
Federal officials later found the thumb in Rohana's desk drawer in his home. He was arrested on art theft charges and later released on bail.
An external security contractor did not follow "standard closing procedures" on the night of the party, Santo said last week.
"As a result of this incident, we have thoroughly reviewed our security protocol and procedures, and have taken appropriate action where needed," she said.