BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Head of China's cultural heritage bureau on Friday denied government involvement in the bidding of two looted Chinese relics in Christie's auction in Paris, saying the bidder was acting privately.
"The bidding was completely a personal behavior," Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), told Xinhua.
Shan said the cultural heritage department had no idea of the bidding until the bidder identified himself Monday. "The SACH had nothing to do with it," said he.
China had tried repeatedly to dissuade Christie's from auctioning the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) bronze rabbit and rat heads sculptures, which were looted from Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace, by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860. But the efforts ended in futile.
The two relics were auctioned for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) each last week. In response, China's cultural heritage authorities ordered strict checks of all exports and imports by Christie's in China.
On Monday, Cai Mingchao, a Chinese antiques collector, identified himself as the winning bidder. But he said that he would not pay because the two relics might not be able to enter China following SACH's strict checks.
Shan said the new order only applies to the cultural relics that Christie's submitted to the Chinese cultural departments for entry or exit checks and it does not limit the return of looted Chinese cultural relics.
Shan also denied reports saying that Christie's once suggested the Chinese government buy the two relics at a low price.
Christie's did say it was willing to cooperate with the Chinese government, but it never offered to sell the two relics to China at a low price, Shan said.