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China furious after man steals thumb from terra-cotta army statue

Chinese authorities are demanding “severe punishment” for a man who allegedly stole a terra-cotta warrior statue’s thumb on display in the U.S., according to China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency.

The statue dates back to 209 B.C. and is worth $4.5 million. It is one of 10 Chinese terra-cotta warriors on loan to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The thumb came from the life-size clay soldier known as the Cavalryman.

The director of the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, which loaned the statues, lashed out at the museum Monday, saying it was “careless” in guarding the warrior.

“We ask that the U.S. severely punish the perpetrator. We have lodged a serious protest with them,” said Wu Haiyun, according to the BBC.

The soldier was part of a “Terrra cotta Army” that provided after-life security at the burial complex of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. The statues are on display at the museum until March 4.

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Federal authorities said Michael Rohana, 24, from Delaware, stole the thumb. He was charged with theft and concealment of a major artwork, and later released on a $15,000 bail, according to Xinhua.

Federal authorities said the guest at a party at the Philadelphia museum in December slipped into a closed exhibit and snipped off part of a sculpture.

The young man in a long-sleeved green sweater and a Philadelphia Phillies cap walked into the darkened exhibit during a Dec. 21 “Science After Hours” party, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jacob Archer. He also took a selfie.

Surveillance video shows the guest alone with “a priceless part of China’s cultural heritage,” reported Archer, a member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

Museum staff noticed the missing thumb Jan. 8 and the FBI later traced it to Rohana, who admitted he kept the thumb in a desk drawer.

In a statement Tuesday, the Franklin Institute said, “The Franklin Institute has the utmost respect for the Terracotta Warriors and the rich Chinese cultural heritage they embody. This was a deplorable act, and we share in the condemnation of this crime as expressed by our partners at the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center. The Institute has been working with the FBI and the United States Attorney’s office to ensure that justice for the individual responsible is served. We will continue to cooperate fully with our partners in China to maintain and protect the warriors with the utmost care and reverence.”

The cultural relics authority of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province will send two experts to repair the damaged terracotta warrior statue, Xinhua reported.

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© 2018 USA Today

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