Chinese lawyers vow to get relics back
Chinese lawyers who failed to halt the sale of two imperial bronzes will continue in their campaign to get them back.BEIJING – Chinese lawyers who failed to halt the sale of two imperial bronzes are trying to identify the anonymous buyers in an ongoing campaign to get the relics back, one of the lawyers told AFP on Friday.
Representatives of 81 Chinese lawyers incensed by this week's sale by Christie's auction house in Paris will seek to learn the identities of the buyers and possibly sue for their return, Beijing-based Li Xingfeng said.
"We will try to find the buyers and try to negotiate with them and then (if that fails) to sue," Li said.
The auction house has not revealed the identities of the mystery buyers of the pieces - bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit that were part of the personal art collection of late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.
They sold on Wednesday for EUR 15.7 million each.
The fountainheads, dating from the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911), were looted from the palace in October 1860, towards the end of the Second Opium War - by British and French troops.
The China Daily newspaper on Friday separately quoted Chinese lawyers saying they planned to file two new lawsuits, one in France and one in China, against Christie's and Berge.
China lashed out Thursday after the sale, accusing Christie's of repeatedly selling smuggled Chinese relics.
A company statement in response said: "Christie's abides by all international and local laws affecting us in our sale jurisdictions."
China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage has warned that the sale will harm Christie's business in the country and vowed to step up checks on its operations.
A Christie's spokeswoman said in an email to AFP that the auction house had minimal operations in China.
"We have been holding previews and exhibitions in China for a few years, but we are not the first foreign auction house to have held them in China. We don't hold sales in the country either, as we don't have a license," said Alexandra Buxton.
In the run-up to the sale, China had demanded the relics be returned, but the French government said it received no official request and a Paris court threw out a last-ditch legal bid.
AFP / Expatica