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Chinese lawyers abroad form alliance for return of lost cultural relics
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19:35, March 04, 2009

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Lawyers of Chinese origin around the globe has formed an alliance to help return the country's lost cultural relics while following the development of controversial bronzes auction in Paris.

"Ten lawyers, working in five countries, have joined in the alliance," Liu Yang, spokesman and one of the founders, told Xinhua over phone from Madrid, Spain, Wednesday. "They will work for future cases like the two bronze sculptures in Paris."

Liu refused to identify where they were practicing. The alliance planned to have a coordinator in "every foreign country where a large number of looted and lost Chinese cultural objects were hold," he said.

They will include the eight nations that had formed an alliance force and invaded China in 1900, he added.

The 1900 invasions were made by forces of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, Japan, Italy and the Austria-Hungarian Empire that dissolved in 1918 into several nations in central and southeastern Europe.

"The Chinese lawyer group, founded to stop the auction of two bronzes by Christie's in Paris, ended its task now," Liu said, also one of the founders of the Chinese lawyer group.

Eighty-one Chinese lawyers and three foreign counterparts had previously formed a group to stop the auction of the bronze rabbit and rat heads sculptures, looted from Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace, by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Their attempt to apply for a court injunction over the auction failed on Feb. 23, two days before the auction was held at the Christie's. They have since disbanded.

The new alliance is engaged in this case. "We have a lawyer group in France for this case. They will closely follow its development and decide further actions," Liu said.

But legal experts here said great difficulties remained for returning such cultural objects through legal proceedings.

"So far, I haven't seen any international conventions or laws that could be applied to such cultural relics as the two bronzes," said Wang Yunxia, a professor of cultural relics law at Renmin University in Beijing.

The 1995 Unidroit Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, frequently quoted in this case, can not be applied retroactively, she said.

"Even if there is a retroactive international convention in the future, it would depend on whether other countries are willing to sign and approve it."

According to Wang, France signed the Unidroit convention but has not approved it.

"In cases of returning looted and lost relics, we should be careful about aggressive actions that might leave negative impacts," she said.

The bid of two bronzes was won by Cai Mingchao, a Chinese antique collector, but he announced here Monday that he would not pay for the bid, because the two looted pieces were not allowed to enter China according to a regulation issued a day after the auction by China's cultural relics administration.

Source: Xinhua

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