by Xinhua Writer Zhuang Hua
BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- As two pieces of looted Chinese relics were on
the stage for auction in the Grand Palace of Paris on Wednesday, a group of
Chinese students gathered in front of the palace and handed out leaflets about
the history of Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) and the Second Opium War.
The two bronzes are something new to the French, but history to the
Chinese, Li Huan, a Chinese student studying in France told Xinhua.
Amid strong protest of the Chinese government and people, French auction
house Christie's sold the Chinese relics out for 14million euros (17.92 million
U.S. dollars) each to anonymous telephone bidders.
The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) relics, bronze heads of a rabbit and a rat are
among an original set of 12 sculptures that once adorned the imperial summer
resort Yuanmingyuan. They were looted when the palace was burnt down by
Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.
The Chinese authorities have strongly protested the auction of the relics.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the auction broke
international conventions and seriously hurt the cultural rights and interests
and the national sentiment of the Chinese people.
Giving out pamphlets about the looting of Yuangmingyuan by Western powers,
Li Huan said that French people should learn more about that part of history. He
noted that many French readily accepted the pamphlets. One of them said "I
appreciate what you are doing, and I think all the looted relics, including
these two, should be returned to China."
A group of Chinese lawyers filed a lawsuit earlier this month with the
Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, asking for an injunction. However, the
court ruled against their demand and ordered compensation to the defendant.
"Although we failed in the lawsuit, justice will not fail," Li said.
Li and two dozens Chinese students printed 5,000 pamphlets and started to
distribute over the weekend to every participant at the auction.
"We want French people to understand that we are rational and our requests
are legitimate," said Zhou Chao, another Chinese student at a French polytechnic
Yang Yongju, president of the European Times, the flagship Chinese-language
newspaper in France said it is "unacceptable to put stolen works for auction."
"These relics bear China's cultural sovereignty and its national sentiment.
What at issue is not their prices. It is totally unacceptable to loot them and
then put them up for auction," she said.
The views of the Chinese people were shared by many of their foreign
"My heart sank when the court refused our appeal," said Bernard Gomez,
president of the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe
(APACE), the organization that serves as plaintiff in the lawsuit. "I hope the
two relics could go home eventually," Gomez added.
The controversial auction of the two bronze heads at Christie's raised the
Chinese people's concerns for the fate of their overseas cultural heritage and
brought world's attention to the shameful trading of the looted relics.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has reiterated that China has undoubted
ownership to its national treasures and that the relics should be returned to
China for free.
The retrieve of lost relics is one of the world's most thorny issues, which
involves political, economic, cultural and international relations factors and
usually takes years of strenuous and extensive efforts.
It is estimated that a total of 1.67 million pieces of Chinese relics,
mostly robbed in wars, are in possession of more than 2,000 museums in 47
countries. China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) said China
will try to take back all Chinese relics stolen in wars or exported illegally in
accordance with related international conventions and by all necessary means.
The Chinese government said the return of looted relics should be
unconditional. However, Pierre Berge, owner of the bronzes, offered to swap the
two sculptures for the application of "human rights in China and the freedom of
"Using the pretext of human rights to infringe on Chinese people's
fundamental cultural rights is just ridiculous," said Ma Chaoxu, Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman at a press conference.
Bernard Brizay, a French historian and journalist, said "combining the two
relics with human rights and Tibet issues has no difference with blackmailing
The Anglo-French allied forces' plunder was a crime against China as well
as the world, said Brizay, author of "1860: the Looting of the Old Summer
The Chinese people's feelings are understandable, he told Xinhua, "the two
bronzes should be returned to China, no matter who got the bids," he said.
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." Full story
Looted Chinese relics sold for 14 million euros
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. Full story
Chinese lawyers vow to carry on despite French court rule on
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. Full story