Anger grows over Warner Bros plan to adapt Chinese antique theft article
Published: Aug 19, 2021 10:26 PM

Photo: Web

Many moviegoers in China have shown dissatisfaction with Warner Bros for its decision to make an adaptation of an article from GQ Magazine that arbitrarily ties the Chinese government to the theft of Chinese cultural relics.

According to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, the movie company is going to adapt the 2018 article The Great Chinese Art Heist, with three Asian-Americans – Jimmy O. Yang, Jessica Gao and Ken Cheng – joining the production.

The Global Times sent an inquiry to Warner Bros on Thursday for more details about the movie but received no comment from them.

The reason why the Warner Bros’ adaptation has caused dissatisfaction on Chinese social media comes from the 2018 article itself.

The author was Alex W. Palmer. The article tells a story of the frequent theft of ancient Chinese art and antiquities from European museums.

Screenshot of the website

Photo: Web

 Yet the article drew controversy as soon as it was published, as the author tried to link the theft cases to China, indicating that the country has been trying to recover its lost art from overseas. It also tried to discredit Chinese enterprises and collectors.

The article started with the descriptions of several museums in Norway and the UK, where many valuable Chinese items were stolen. Police have been unable to locate the suspects. Then it mentioned the Chinese government and China’s state-run enterprise Poly group, suggesting their involvement in the heist.

The article also mentioned a “hunting team” sent by the Chinese government to New York’s Metropolitan Museum. “As the group poked around and asked about the art on display, one participant, a researcher named Liu Yang who had gained some notoriety for his zeal in cataloging China’s lost treasures, sleuthed through the museum's long corridors, looking for objects he might recognize.”

Most common views on Chinese social media said that GQ merely assumed the theft was conducted by China, and did not offer any evidence. So there is irritation that Warner Bros is adapting this dubious story into a movie.

“The fact checking of the article has already been questioned by many Chinese arts experts and antique collectors. And yet Warner Bros still wants to make its adaptation,” said one antiques lover online.

Back in 2018, many people including Poly General Manager Jiang Yingchun and arts collectors commented on the article.

It is “absolute nonsense,” Jiang told the Global Times in an interview in 2018. “Museums around the world have suffered thefts from time to time, and Western cultural relics have been stolen more often than Chinese ones.”

“Anyone with a normal mind wouldn’t accept this suggestion,” said Kevin Whong, a Chinese antiques collector and CFO of a Fortune 500 company.