A calligraphy scroll of a poem crafted by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong was stolen last month in a high-profile burglary in Hong Kong. It has now been recovered—but not in its original state.
Artifacts collector Fu Chunxiao was stuck in mainland China due to pandemic travel restrictions. While he was away, three burglars broke into his Hong Kong apartment and committed the theft. The scroll alone is estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The burglars also took 24,000 Chinese postage stamps, 10 coins, and seven other scrolls from the apartment. Fu estimates that the Mao (pronounced mow to rhyme with cow) calligraphy was worth $300 million and that the theft totaled about $645 million.
Police arrested a 49-year-old man in late September on suspicion of handling stolen property. One Chinese newspaper reported that the scroll was cut in two by a buyer who had purchased it for 500 Hong Kong dollars. That’s about only $65 U.S. dollars. This buyer supposedly believed the scroll to be counterfeit.
“According to our investigation, someone thought that the calligraphy was too long,” explained Tony Ho, senior superintendent of the police Organized Crime and Triad Bureau. He explains that the length made it “difficult to show it, to display it, and that’s why it was cut in half.”
Police arrested three men in relation to the burglary. At least two more suspects are still at large.
Who was Mao Zedong and why is the calligraphy scroll so valuable? Mao was one of the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China and chairman of the Communist Party of China. He is most known for his political theories, which are now collectively called Maoism. Mao is credited for making China a world power. But he’s also known for leading the nation into several bloody military conflicts, suppressing the Chinese people, extinguishing freedom of religion, and violating basic human rights. He contributed to the deaths of tens of millions through incarceration, starvation, persecution, and mass executions of those who disagreed with him.
Mao Zedong was anything but a great or even good leader. Yet his influence in China’s history is undeniable. It may be difficult to understand how a work by such an evil person could be so valuable. Perhaps the value is in pointing us to the good, in contrast to the bad.
We have a Ruler who is also our Protector. When God’s people are oppressed, He hears and sees. Psalm 146:8-9 says,
“The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
He upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.”