Tue, February 24, 2009
Lifestyle > Culture > China-YSL relics row

Auction raises row over China's lost treasures

2009-02-20 01:49:43 GMT2009-02-20 09:49:43 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

The bronze rabbit head (File Photo)

The bronze rabbit head (File Photo)

BEIJING, Feb. 20 -- Two lost treasures of Beijing's Old Summer Palace will go on the auction block in Paris on February the 25th. The controversial sale has raised concerns among Chinese societies around the world. Many are teaming up to retrieve the items in the courts. CCTV reporter Pan Deng follows the latest development.

Take a wild guess on how much these two sculptures are worth.

Many say 10 million Euros each. That's nearly 200 million yuan in total.

This is where they come from, Beijing's Old Summer Palace, built almost 300 years ago. They were looted when British-French allied forces burned the palace down during the Second Opium War in 1860.

The spokesman of old summer palace park Zong Tianliang said, "The bronze rabbit and rat heads were among 12 animal head sculptures that formed the zodiac signs on display behind me. We have always opposed the auctions of any lost treasures of this park. We don't encourage Chinese people to buy those looted treasures back, either."

China's National Treasure Fund is the organizer behind some of the previous buys. It encouraged leading enterprises and Macao's gaming mogul, Stanley Ho, to buy back some sculptures through negotiation. But the current holder refused to talked to the Fund.

Niu Xianfeng from National treasure funds said, "We sent an official letter to Pierre Berge in October, 2008. We told him how China had lost these two items. We made ourselves very clear that we are against this auction, because it's against international agreements and the basic rules of commercial auctions. We haven't got any reply from him."

Meanwhile, some lawyers have teamed up voluntarily to try to get the two heads back through legal channels. Liu Yang heads the team. He just applied for a French visa on Wednesday morning. He's preparing a lawsuit on foreign soil, but this is not the biggest challenge for him.

Liu Yang, a lawyer from Beijing Tianyi law firm said, "We want to get a prohibition order on the auction from a French court. But we cannot find an appropriate plaintiff. The Old Summer Palace is an ideal choice, but its administrator hasn't made up his mind yet. I think we have run out of time for this plan."

Liu Yang says things may not go as the team planned in France and he has to be ready for anything.

Liu Yang, a lawyer from Beijing Tianyi law firm said, "If someone gets the two treasures through the auction, we will sue the buyer, along with the auction house and Pierre Berge, because they deal in legally controversial items after acknowledging our notice. We consider this to be malpractice."

Christie's Auction House told us that its global PR policy is not to grant any interviews at this time.

All we can manage is an earlier interview of its spokesman in Paris, published in the London Times. He said each and every item in the collection has a clear legal title.

It looks like China has a tough situation on getting the treasures back, along with thousands of others now being exhibited in western museums.

(Source: CCTV.com)

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