February 26, 2009

Chan blasts sale of looted statues

Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan has denounced as shameful the way two Chinese relics were sold off at a Christie's auction in Paris.

The Qing dynasty bronze fountainheads shaped like a rabbit and a rat and allegedly looted from Beijing's Summer Palace during the second Opium War in 1860 were sold to undisclosed buyers this week for $18 million apiece after China attempted to block the auction on the grounds the treasures were stolen.

Possessed by numerous owners through the years, the statues were sold as part of a collection that belonged to the late fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent.

This behavior is shameful, The Telegraph quoted Chan as saying about Wednesday's auction as he announced plans to make a movie next year about the theft of cultural relics. They remain looted items, no matter whom they were sold to. Whoever took it out (of China) is himself a thief. It was looting yesterday. It is still looting today.

The Telegraph said the Chinese government has vowed to try to keep Christie's from selling looted art in the future.

In recent years, Christie's has frequently sold cultural heritage items looted or smuggled from China, and all items involved were illegally taken out of the country, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said, adding it resolutely opposes and condemns all auctions of artifacts illegally taken abroad.

The Times of London quoted Christie's as saying it stands by the sale of the fountainheads as their ownership had been clearly determined.

We continue to believe that sale by public auction offers the best opportunity for items to be repatriated as a result of worldwide exposure, the auction house said.