A calligraphy scroll by China’s former leader Mao Zedong, estimated to be worth millions, was cut in half after it was stolen last month in Hong Kong, police have said.
The scroll was found damaged when police arrested a 49-year-old man in late September on suspicion of handling stolen property. The South China Morning Post, quoting an unidentified police source, reported that the scroll was cut in two by a buyer who had purchased it for 500 Hong Kong dollars (about £50) and believed the scroll to be counterfeit.
“According to our investigation, someone thought that the calligraphy was too long,” Tony Ho, a senior superintendent with the police organised crime bureau, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It was difficult to show it, to display it, and that’s why it was cut in half.”
Police said the scroll was taken as part of a multimillion-dollar theft by three burglars from a collector’s apartment in September. The collector, Fu Chunxiao, was in mainland China at the time and has not been to Hong Kong since January because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The burglars took 24,000 Chinese postage stamps, 10 coins and seven calligraphy scrolls from Fu’s apartment. Fu estimated the Mao calligraphy was worth about US$300m (£230m) and that the theft totalled about $645m. No independent appraisals of the collections were available.
Police have arrested three men in relation to the burglary and on suspicion of providing assistance to criminals. Ho said at least two people allegedly connected to the burglary were still at large.
Although some of the stolen items have been found, the 24,000 stamps and six other calligraphy scrolls have not been recovered, police said.