Magna Carta Exhibition Venue Switched Again In China

A Magna Carta exhibition scheduled for a Shanghai museum has been switched to the British Consulate — the second time the historic declaration of rights has been moved from a public venue in communist-ruled China.

A display of one of only four existing examples of the charter — considered to represent the foundation of rule of law in the West — was originally advertised for the Guanfu Museum in China’s commercial hub.

But it will now be shown at Britain’s diplomatic mission in the city, an invitation to media revealed.

It is the second time on its China tour that a display of the document has been moved from a public place to diplomatic premises — to which ordinary Chinese citizens have limited access.

A showing in Beijing was last week moved from a university to the British ambassador’s residence at the last minute.

The document is on a world tour to mark the 800th anniversary of its signing by England’s King John on July 15, 1215. It is the first time it has come to China, according to a press release from the British Embassy.

Considered a cornerstone of liberty, modern democracy, justice and the rule of law, the concepts in the English charter contribute to legal systems around the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the US constitution.

But the ideas enshrined in the Magna Carta are a sensitive topic in China where the ruling Communist Party controls the legal system and enforces the law unevenly.

Organisers in Shanghai told AFP Tuesday the privately-owned Guanfu Museum was not ready to host the exhibit since it is in the new Shanghai Tower, the world’s second tallest building, which is not yet open to the public.

“We were unable to exhibit in the Guanfu gallery as the brand-new Shanghai Tower has not yet received a fire service inspection certificate,” said Mark Logan, a spokesman for the British Consulate.

But the British Embassy’s page on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter equivalent, on Tuesday still showed the venue as the museum.

The three-day Shanghai exhibit, which starts on Saturday, will be open to members of the public who sign up through the consulate’s official WeChat account, Logan said.

An official of Guanfu Museum, first established in Beijing but now with branches around the country, said the Shanghai Tower had not opened as scheduled and confirmed fire safety approval was among the issues.


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