BEIJING • One of China's top historic attractions issued an apology after two women drove an SUV into the Forbidden City in Beijing and posed for pictures when it was meant to be closed to the public.
Photos of the pair wearing sunglasses and standing in front of the luxury vehicle alone in a grand square usually packed with tourists quickly sparked outrage after they were posted on social media.
The sprawling, nearly 600-year-old former imperial palace in the centre of the Chinese capital said it welcomed 19 million visitors last year, all of whom had to enter on foot.
A statement from the Unesco world heritage site, also known as the Palace Museum, confirmed that the incident happened on Monday, a day it is usually shut.
"The Palace Museum is deeply shocked and sincerely apologises to the public," it said late on Friday on the Twitter-like platform Weibo, adding that it would "strictly manage and stop such actions" from taking place in future.
The controversial photos had been posted on Weibo last week but were swiftly deleted after sparking ire among users questioning how the women had entered the Forbidden City, which is very well guarded.
Many netizens expressed indignation at privileges and freebies perceived to be dished out to China's rich elites.
"Such behaviour is hurtful to the citizens," said one angry user.