AFP – Chinese citizens are up in arms after a Ferrari sports car left tyre tracks atop Nanjing‘s ancient city wall, possibly permanently damaging the protected landmark.
China‘s outspoken netizens heaped criticism on the Italian automaker after a domestic sales agent allowed the car to be driven on the centuries-old wall in a promotional event, the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday.
The incident also highlights growing anger over a widening rich-poor divide in China, where brazen displays of extravagance and wealth are attracting more and more criticism.
A crane hoisted the car to the top of the wall and video of the event showed the blood-red Ferrari doing 360 degree turns, with cleaners trying in vain to scrub dark black tyre marks from the grey brick the following day.
The affected section near the eastern city’s Gate of China — a renowned ancient ceremonial gateway — dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is said to be among the best preserved sections of the wall.
“We cannot tolerate that Ferrari used the ancient city gate to make a show and ruined it. If you do not respect the city, you do not deserve to stay here,” said one Nanjing resident in a microblog posting.
Xinhua said the car involved was a special edition Ferrari 458 Italia valued at six million yuan ($950,000), and the organisers of the event spent more than $12,000 to hold the ceremony at the site.
“A 6 million yuan Ferrari versus a 600-year-old ancient city wall… What are the Nanjing authorities doing? So sad,” said another microblogger who gave the name Baobei Fei.
Ferrari apologised in a statement on its website on Tuesday, saying it respected Chinese culture and was working to resolve the problems caused by its distributor Kuaiyi Automobile.
The Nanjing government has also “reprimanded” the officials responsible as the event took place without higher authorisation, Xinhua said.
But it might be too late to reverse the impact, experts say.
“The (structural) damage may be invisible at the moment, but very detrimental,” Yang Guoqing, a preservation expert, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.