A stolen calligraphy scroll said to be worth millions has been found in Hong Kong, after it was cut in half.
Thieves had stolen the scroll by Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong from an art collector’s home in a burglary last month.
They then sold it at a fraction of its value. It was apparently cut up as the 2.8m-long (9ft) scroll was deemed too long to display, said Hong Kong police.
The original owner says the artwork’s value has been “definitely affected”.
The scroll contains stanzas of poetry handwritten by the founder of the People’s Republic of China. Its owner has claimed it is estimated to be worth around $300m (£230m), though it is not known how the valuation was obtained.
The scroll was stolen in a massive heist on 10 September, when three men broke into the home of Fu Chunxiao, a well-known collector of stamps and revolutionary art.
They also made off with antique stamps, copper coins and other pieces of calligraphy by Mao. The total haul was worth HK$5bn ($645m; £500m) according to Mr Fu, who was reportedly in mainland China when the burglary took place.
The thieves sold one of the pieces to another art collector for just HK$500 ($64; £50) to a purchaser who, according to The South China Morning Post, believed the artwork was a fake.
The buyer then saw a public appeal by police, and surrendered himself with both pieces of the scroll on 22 September.
It is unclear who exactly had cut the artwork. Senior superintendent Tony Ho of the Hong Kong police said: “Someone thought the calligraphy was too long… and difficult to show and display. That’s why it was cut in half.”
“It was heartbreaking to see it be torn into two pieces,” Mr Fu told the Post. “It will definitely affect its value but the impact remains to be seen.”
In 2019, a calligraphic autograph letter written by Mao Zedong was auctioned off by Sotheby’s for £519,000.
Police later arrested the 49-year-old buyer on suspicion of handling stolen property, though he has now been released on bail.
One suspected burglar has also been arrested, but the other two burglars who broke into Mr Fu’s home still remain at large.