China punishes auction house for the sale of bronze sculptures
Chinese authorities are threatening to punish the auction house that sold two relic bronze sculptures that once adorned the residence of the Emperor of China. The Christie’s auction house sold two bronze sculptures as part of Yves Saint Laurent charitable auction that started on Monday in Paris.
Chinese appealed to have the sale blocked, claiming the sculptures are part of China’s cultural heritage and should be returned to China. The appeal was declined by French court, however.
Chinese authorities said Christie’s will face tighter inspections of the cultural relics that the company brings in and out of China. The authorities will be strict, demanding careful documentation and ownership certificates on any of Christie’s products.
Do you think such retaliation is justified?
The two bronze sculptures of a rabbit and a rat, looted from Beijing's Old Summer Palace in 1860, sold for a total of more than 31m euros (£28m, $39m).
A court in Paris rejected a Chinese appeal to have the sale blocked.
China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage condemned the sale of the two bronzes and said it would affect Christie's interests in the country, ordering tighter inspections of all cultural relics that the auction house seeks to bring in or out of mainland China.
Border authorities will single out Christie's artifacts and demand certificates of legal ownership and documented details of ownership history, the agency said. Items lacking sufficient documentation will be stopped.
The auction of the bronzes "goes against the spirit of relevant international conventions and the international common understanding that cultural relics should be returned to their country of origin," the administration said in a statement.
The administration vowed to continue its efforts to recover similarly looted Chinese relics through "all necessary channels."
"People in government, academia and even on a local level have long been trying to get all these items back," said Tracey Lie Dan Lu, director of the Centre for Cultural Heritage Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "Now the Chinese government is making it more clear, sending the message out to the world so that people will pay more attention to this issue."
Christie's auction of the rat and rabbit bronzes did not break any international agreements, but China argued the relics are a part of its cultural heritage and should be returned.
Christie's stood by the sale, saying the pieces' legal ownership had been "clearly confirmed."
See previous coverage here