CHINA> National
China to try best to get bronzes back
Updated: 2009-03-12 22:59

BEIJING -- China's Ministry of Culture said Thursday the country would resort to "all necessary means" to seek the return of two looted Chinese relics auctioned at Christie's in Paris.

"China will never consent to illegal possession of stolen cultural relics," Ouyang Jian, Deputy Culture Minister, said on the sidelines of the country's legislative session.

A photographer takes a picture of the Chinese bronze rat head and rabbit head sculptures displayed at the preview of the auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's art collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, February 21, 2009.  [Xinhua]

It is the latest comment from Chinese officials in protest against Christie's auction of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) bronze rabbit and rat heads sculptures, which were looted from Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace, by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

"The auction has violated international conventions, and has hurt the cultural rights and interests and the national sentiment of the Chinese people," Ouyang said.

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Such act could also have a strong impact on the development of Christie's in China, he added.

China had tried repeatedly to dissuade Christie's from auctioning, but the efforts failed.

The two bronze heads were auctioned for 14 million euros ($17.92 million) each two weeks ago. Cai Mingchao, a Chinese antiques collector, identified himself later as the winning bidder, but said at a press conference that he would not pay the money.

The auction triggered wide protest in China. But Christie's argued that the Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation held legal ownership of the fountainheads.

"We will never stop questioning the legitimacy of such possession, and will seek the return of the sculptures by all necessary means in accord with related international conventions and Chinese laws," said Ouyang.

He again denied government involvement in the bidding for the two Yuanmingyuan relics, saying Cai had acted on his own.

So far, five of the 12 bronze animal fountain heads in Yuanmingyuan have returned home, but the whereabouts of five others are unknown.