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Magna Carta exhibition in China

LONDON (SE): An exhibition of the famed Magna Carta manuscript, recognised as the beginning of the development of modern democracy, has gone on display at the home of the British ambassador to China in Beijing, as part of the 800th anniversary of its signing by the king of England, John, in 1215.

On display is a version made in 1217, which is kept at Hereford Cathedral in England, one of only 17 surviving examples of the 13th century texts.

The exhibition opened as the president of China, Xi Jinping, was preparing for a state visit to Britain.

Tom Phillips reported in The Guardian on October 13 that critics of the government in China have been calling on Xi to visit the exhibition.

He quoted Yu Wensheng, a lawyer, who was targeted in the recent round up of legal rights advocates, as saying, “I very much hope that Xi can go and see the exhibition. It should serve as a reminder to him and the leadership that cracking down on lawyers is wrong.”

Another lawyer, Liu Shihui, was quoted as saying that Xi often name-checks Ernest Hemingway and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, so he hopes that he can also spare some time to read the Magna Carta.

Martin Davidson, the chairperson of the Great Britain China Centre in Beijing, said at the launch of the exhibition on October 13 that many Chinese people are interested in the Magna Carta, because it symbolises the king becoming subject to the rule of law and having his power constrained by law.

It is estimated that less than one in four Chinese people have heard of the document and it is hoped to use the anniversary to strengthen people’s struggle to see their governments become subject to the law.

The exhibition later travelled to Shanghai and Guangzhou. It will be displayed at Sotheby’s Hong Kong from November 11 to 14.


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