China opposes sale of looted cultural relics: diplomat

10:39, November 17, 2009      

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A senior Chinese diplomat said here on Monday that China insists on its right to seek the return of cultural relics that have been illegally taken abroad and opposes auctions of these cultural relics, including treasures from the famous Yuan Ming Yuan Summer Palace.

Liu Zhenmin, deputy permanent representative of the Chinese Mission to the UN, made the statement at a plenary meeting of the 64th session of the General Assembly on the item of "Return or Restitution of Cultural Property to the Countries of Origin."

Liu said that for a long period beginning in mid-19th century, the western powers, in a succession of wars of aggression against China, had plundered and looted countless Chinese cultural relics, including numerous cultural treasures from Yuan Ming Yuan, the imperial garden looted and burned down during an invasion of Beijing by the British and French forces in 1860.

"These cultural relics should be returned to China," he said. "We believe that such auctions run counter to the underlying spirit of relevant international treaties and UN resolutions, and are serious infringements of China's cultural rights and interests."

As symbols of identity of a nation or a people, cultural property represents a valuable asset of human civilization, Liu said, adding that illicit appropriation of and trafficking in cultural property is a sacrilege to history and civilization.

"While enjoying broad consensus of the international community, protecting cultural heritage and promoting the restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin are inalienable and fundamental cultural rights of the people of countries of origin, as well as cultural responsibilities incumbent on all governments," the ambassador said.

He advocated strengthening international cooperation as an effective way to prevent and combat trafficking in cultural property.

Liu said that states should comply with international legal frameworks and principles, carry out active cooperation with competent UN bodies and international organizations to combat smuggling and trafficking in cultural property, and enhance cooperation in promoting the return of cultural property.

China attached great importance to the protection of cultural heritage by putting in place a legal and regulatory system with the "Cultural Relics Protection Law" as the pivot, the ambassador noted.

It has signed with many countries bilateral agreements on the prevention of illicit appropriation, excavation, and entry and exit of cultural objects, and has successfully sought and retrieved such objects illegally transported overseas.

"China will continue to actively participate in UNESCO's activities in promoting the return of cultural property to its countries of origin, and seek appropriate solutions in this regard," Liu said.

Source: Xinhua
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