China tightens control on Christie's after auction
www.chinaview.cn 2009-02-26 13:53:39   Print

The bronze sculpture of a rabbit's head, which is an ancient Chinese relic, is auctioned in the Grand Palace of Paris in Paris, France, Feb. 25, 2009. Two controversial ancient Chinese relics including the bronze sculptures of a rat's head and a rabbit's head, were auctioned off on Wednesday night for 14 million euros each by anonymous telephone bidders in Christies's sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurant and Pierre Berge in Paris. The sculptures were looted by invading Anglo-French expedition army in the 19th century, when the invaders burned down the royal garden of Yuanmingyuan in Beijing.(Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)
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    BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- In response to an auction by Christie's of two bronze sculptures taken from the Old Summer Palace in 1860, held despite China's protests, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) Thursday imposed limits on what the auction house can take in or out of China.

    Entry and exit administrative departments for cultural heritage at all levels were ordered in a circular to carefully check "heritage items" that Christie's seeks to import or export. The notice also covers agents and employees of Christie's.

    These entry-exit offices are separate from the customs administration.

    Xinhua contacted Christie's Beijing office for comment by e-mail and phone but has not yet received a response.

    Certificates of legal ownership must be provided for all items, the circular said. These documents must provide detailed information about the owners and the provenance (ownership history) of the items. Items with inadequate or missing documentation won't be allowed to enter or exit the country.

    Entry and exit departments should immediately report to the SACH and local police and customs offices if they find relics owned by Christie's that might have been looted or smuggled, said the circular.

    The circular said: "In recent years, Christie's has frequently sold cultural heritage items looted or smuggled from China, and all items involved were illegally taken out of the country." It didn't specify the items or transactions.

    Earlier Thursday, the SACH issued a statement condemning Christie's auction of the sculptures and saying it would have "serious effects" on Christie's development in China."

    It said in the statement that China did not acknowledge what it called the illegal possession of the two sculptures and would "continue to seek the return of the sculptures by all means in accord with related international conventions and Chinese laws."

 A photographer takes a picture of the Chinese bronze rat head and rabbit head sculptures displayed on the preview of the auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's art collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, Feb. 21, 2009. Chinese lawyers have filed a motion to a French court seeking an injunction to stop auction house Christie's putting two bronze relics looted from China under the hammer, lawyers said Friday. The two relics, a bronze rat head and a bronze rabbit head, were looted from China's imperial summer resort Yuanmingyuan when it was burnt down by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

A photographer takes a picture of the Chinese bronze rat head and rabbit head sculptures displayed on the preview of the auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's art collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, Feb. 21, 2009. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)
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    According to the statement, SACH officials sought repeatedly to halt the sale through many means, including writing a letter to Christie's on Feb. 17 in a bid to stop the sale. However, it said, Christie's proceeded with the auction, violating international conventions and the "common understanding" that such artifacts should be returned to their country of origin.

    It said the auction "damaged Chinese citizens' cultural rights and feelings and will have serious effects on Christie's development in China."

    The two controversial relics, which are more than 200 years old, were auctioned Wednesday for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) each to anonymous telephone bidders in Christie's sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of Paris.

    Christie's has refused to identify the bidders.

    "I think our next action is to try to figure out their identities," said Li Xingfeng, one of the 81 Chinese lawyers who took part in the campaign to stop the auctions.

    They would decide on a course of action after Liu Yang, head of the legal group, returned from Paris, he said.

    Li said all the lawyers understood from the beginning that their efforts might fail.

    "But our effort was rewarded by the attention this case attracted. We have heard condemnation of the parties in this deal. We are glad to see the reactions of the government and public," he said.

    The two bronze sculptures, representing the heads of a rabbit and a rat, were among 12 animal head sculptures that formed a zodiac-themed water clock decorating the Calm Sea Pavilion in the Old Summer Palace of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) in Beijing.

    They were looted when the palace was burned down by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860. So far, five of the 12 bronze animal heads have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others are unknown.

    The Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe filed a motion at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris Thursday, seeking an injunction to stop the auction. The court rejected the motion Monday.

China condemns Christie's sculpture sale, warns of "serious effects"

    BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Following an auction Wednesday in Paris by Christie's of two bronze sculptures taken from the Summer Palace in 1860, China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) issued a statement here Thursday condemning the action and saying it would have "serious effects" on Christie's development in China."

    The administration said in the statement that China did not acknowledge what it called the illegal possession of the two sculptures and would "continue to seek the return of the sculptures by all means in accord with related international conventions and Chinese laws."  Full story

Looted Chinese relics sold for 14 million euros each

    PARIS, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two controversial ancient Chinese relics were auctioned off on Wednesday night for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) each by anonymous telephone bidders in Christie's sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of Paris.

    According to Christie's, they have received 8 phone calls for "enquiries" before the sale. After the auction was launched, the competition was only conducted between telephone bidders, with no one in the scene raised for a bid. Full story

How absurd to "kidnap" cultural relics with human rights

    BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two pieces of China's valuable cultural past, the bronze heads of a rabbit and a rat, stolen from the Old Summer Palace by British and French forces during the second Opium War in 1860, are scheduled for auction in Paris Wednesday night.

    Long before the auction, the Chinese government, cultural heritage organizations and lawyers have been actively pursuing the return of the Chinese treasures. However, at this specific moment, the owner of the bronzes, French businessman Pierre Berge, offered to swap the two sculptures for the application of human rights in China and the freedom of Tibet. From the Chinese point of view, it's an absurd requirement by abducting China's cultural relics with human rights issues. Full story

American Chinese collectors urge boycott of Christie's

    LOS ANGELES, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- American Chinese collectors on Tuesday urged the Chinese government to take action against Christine's, and called for a boycott of the auctioneer if it insists on auctioning two historic bronze sculptures looted from a Chinese imperial garden.

    The American Chinese Collector's Association and the Eastern Cultural Foundation jointly issued an open letter at a press conference here, in an appeal to all Chinese collectors and antique dealers around the world to stop doing business with Christine's. Full story

Chinese gov't writes to Christie's seeking to stop auction

    BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- China's heritage authorities said Tuesday they had written to auction house Christie's in a bid to stop the sale of two looted bronze sculptures.

    The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) sent the letter to the auction house on Feb. 17, but only announced it in a statement Tuesday.  Full story

Chinese lawyers vow to carry on despite French court rule on looted bronzes

Ren Xiaohong (R), a lawyer for the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe (APACE), the plaintiff, speaks to the media with her colleague Ayagh at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, capital of France, Feb. 23, 2009. The Paris court on Monday ruled against stopping the sale of two looted Chinese bronze sculptures which come up for auction at Christie's on Wednesday.(Xinhua/Zheng Suchun)
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    BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Despite losing a bid in a Parisian court to stop two looted bronze sculptures from being auctioned at Christie's, Chinese lawyers pledged to continue their efforts to halt the sale.

    "We are disappointed about the French court rule on Monday but we have to accept it," Li Xingfeng, one of the 81 Chinese lawyers that participated in the project, told Xinhua here Tuesday.   Full story

Paris court refuses to stop sale of looted Chinese bronzes

    PARIS, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- A Paris court on Monday ruled against stopping the sale of two looted Chinese bronze sculptures which come up for auction at Christie's on Wednesday.

    Under the ruling of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, the plaintiff, the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe (APACE), was ordered to pay compensation to the defendant.  Full story

Editor: Xiong Tong
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