Auctioneer Christie's brought a seven-member legal team to court yesterday to counter a motion to stop the firm from putting two bronze relics looted from China's Imperial Summer Palace under the hammer, one of the two lawyers supporting the motion told China Daily yesterday.
The hearing was ongoing at press time.
Association for the Protection of the Art of China in Europe president Bernard Gomez submitted the application to the court last Thursday, said Liu Yang, who orchestrated the transnational lawsuit and heads the 85 volunteer lawyers.
The bronze rat and rabbit heads are part of a zodiacal collection of 12 animals that decorated the palace in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). They were stolen when the palace was ransacked by Anglo-French troops during the Second Opium War in 1860. Five have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of the others are unknown.
The relics belong to the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and are expected to raise as much as 30 million euros ($39 million), Christie's had said.
Ren Xiaohong, a Chinese attorney licensed in France, China and New York State, represented Gomez along with another French attorney.
"She is just the attorney we need," Liu said. "But I'm not optimistic about the seven-to-two face-off."
Gomez was the best plaintiff because his organization has worked closely with the Chinese government to restitute Chinese relics lost overseas, Liu said.