Magna Carta on show in Hong Kong after China flap

November 11, 2015 09:59
The Magna Carta, seen as the foundation of rule of law in the West, is now on public display in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

The Magna Carta went on public display in Hong Kong Wednesday, after changes in venue sparked controversy during the mainland Chinese leg of the historic document's worldwide tour.

The charter -- widely seen as the foundation of rule of law in the West -- was withdrawn twice from public venues in the mainland and switched to British diplomatic premises to which ordinary Chinese citizens have limited access.

"We were really delighted that thousands of people in mainland China came to see Magna Carta," Caroline Wilson, Britain's consul general for Hong Kong, was quoted by AFP as saying.

Wilson said nearly 20,000 people came to see the ancient document in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, describing it as "an excellent result".

The concepts in the English charter also contributed to legal systems around the world, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the US constitution.

But the ideas enshrined in the Magna Carta -- which means "Great Charter" -- are a sensitive topic in China, where the Communist Party maintains control over the legal system.

The document on display is one of just four existing specimens of the charter and is on a world tour to mark the 800th anniversary of its signing by England's King John on July 15, 1215.

It is on show at auction house Sotheby's gallery in Hong Kong until Saturday.

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Canon Chris Pullin of Hereford Cathedral introduces the historic document to members of the media. Photo: HKEJ
The Magna Carta is displayed alongside the only surviving copy of the King's Writ, a letter sent by King John in 1215 to royal officials in each English county announcing the terms of the Magna Carta. Photo: EJ Insight
The Magna Carta is also known as the Great Charter of Liberties and is arguably the foundation of the common law heritage of Hong Kong. Photo: EJ Insight
The Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the sovereign, was subject to the law. Photo: EJ Insight
The document will be displayed to the public from Nov. 11 to Nov. 14 at Sotheby's Hong Kong gallery, 5/F, One Pacific Place, Admiralty. Photo: HKEJ