Security staff at one of China's most sacred cultural sites have apologised for allowing two wealthy women to drive their car into the centre of Beijing treasure.

Lu Xiaobao was caught up in public fury after posting pictures of herself posing with a friend on their car bonnet in the central courtyard of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

While the pictures were promptly deleted, the images gained viral attention online. The Palace Museum was bombarded by angry citizens asking for an explanation as to why the women were allowed to drive onto the sacred site.

A statement from the site's museum said it was "deeply distressed and sincerely apologises to the public."

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Museum officials confirmed to the BBC that the incident happened on Monday last week, with the knowledge of the site security.

The Imperial city at the centre of Beijing is a Unesco World Heritage site and, due to its cultural sensitivity, is heavily guarded.

The site of the 15th century Imperial Palace is extremely sensitive and earned the name "Forbidden city" for the fortified city's famously strict security. Visitors were first granted access in 1925 under the charge of the Palace Museum, under whose guard entry to the city has become increasingly easy. Last year the city recorded over 16 million visits.

However, this increased access and lax security has seen the city become the site of more scandalous tourist behaviour.

In 2015 a nude photo shoot by the artist Wanimal caused a stir, with chinese academics calling for the photographer and model to be arrested. China Daily reported that the Palace Museum did not deny it had given the photographer permission to take the scandalous photos.

Forbidden city photo shoot: Artist Wanimal caused outcry in 2015. Photo / Supplied, Weibo
Forbidden city photo shoot: Artist Wanimal caused outcry in 2015. Photo / Supplied, Weibo

The images of Lu Xiaobao first appeared on the Chinese social media site Weibo on Friday 17. The images of the two influential women apparently enjoying a private audience of the city along with heir 4x4 car led to some uncomfortable questions.

On one of the deleted social media posts, the BBC reported Lu had written: "On Monday the Palace Museum is closed, so I hurried over, hid from the crowds, and went to play in the Forbidden City."

The city is normally closed to the public on Mondays for restoration work.

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The fact that the women were granted a special audience in the city, which was closed to the public, was infuriating but to be seen flaunting a luxury car in the sacred site gained the post viral contempt from social media users.

Forbidden: The Imperial Palace at the centre of Beijing is a Unesco World heritage site. Photo / Ling Tang, Unsplash
Forbidden: The Imperial Palace at the centre of Beijing is a Unesco World heritage site. Photo / Ling Tang, Unsplash

The hashtag #DrivingIntoTheForbiddenCity went viral over the weekend.

"Deleting the pictures is useless; the entire Chinese nation has seen them," said one upset fan of Chinese culture.

Some users have speculated that it is the picture's depiction of luxury and privilege that the photos seem to flaunt that has riled up the whole nation.

Air China confirmed that Lu had worked as a flight attendant for the company, though she had "left the company a number of years ago".