By China Watcher
With the Paris Court ruling allowing the sale of the two looted Chinese bronze sculptures, a reputable Western auction house has now potentially become an accessory with the “owner” responsible for the sale of “stolen” assets/items. The two items are expected to fetch between US$20.8 million to US$30 million.
The historical relics were taken from Beijing's Old Summer Palace when it was looted by invading French and British forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War. It formed part of the original set of 12 bronze animal heads kept at Yuanmingyuan. To date, five of the 12 bronze animal heads have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others are unknown.
Under UNESCO's Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, any cultural relics looted or lost during wars should be returned without any limitation of the time span. On the basis of international law, it is also important that cultural relics are returned to the originating countries if it can be traced that the right of ownership at the source is not acquired legally. Similarly, if you purchased an item which was found to be stolen in the first place, you would lose the legal ownership and the goods would be confiscated and then eventually return to the first owner.
What really irked me was that the partner of the original collector, Pierre Berge, who told the media that he would return the sculptured items so long as China gives liberty to the Tibet people and invited the Dalai Lama back to Tibet. What does he mean by giving liberty to the Tibetans? The Frenchman thinks that with his wealth he can trade or bargain for concessions with the Chinese government. He is being ridiculous as China is not as weak as it was during the Qing dynasty.
Generally, it is sad to note here that Western people are completely misguided on the concept of human rights in Tibet. The Tibetans have been provoked on many occasions by the exiled religious leader to rise up against Chinese rule and to seek independence (disguised as autonomy to gain Western sympathies). Under such a compelling situation, it would be unwise of any government to allow total human rights to the Tibetans (as practiced in the West) since stability and safety of the Han Chinese and the Hui Muslim minorities in Qinghai and Tibet would be compromised. This is what happened in March last year as the Tibetan ran riot murdering some of the Han Chinese.
The American Chinese Collector's Association and the Eastern Cultural Foundation jointly issued an open letter to the media requesting all Chinese collectors and antique dealers around the world to stop doing business with the auction house.
The insincere French government is silent on the matter.
I supported the call to the Chinese government to suspend all activities with the auction house in Hong Kong and China and to urge all Chinese consumers around the world to boycott Yves Saint Laurent products. At least we will not be perceived as an accomplice in the trading of “stolen” properties.