Headline News


1st lawsuit on American stolen Chinese relics filed

Source: CRI | 06-25-2007 16:46

The first ever lawsuit to retrieve China's lost cultural treasures has been filed against a Spanish American for his ancestor's having stolen two heads from the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, central China's Henan province.

Liu Yang, the lawyer who filed the case last weekend to Luoyang's Intermediate People's Court, is a member of the All China Lawyers Association and a senior collector of relics. The lawyer told the local media that the case, which was earlier rejected by several other courts, will target the Spanish American whose ancestor had grabbed two heads of Buddhist sculptures through illegal means in the 1930s from Longmen Grottoes, known as one of the four greatest grottoes in China.

Liu says he appealed to the court to ask the American who lives in Los Angeles to return the Chinese historical treasures.

When asking experts to give his treasures a proper evaluation early this year, the Spanish American addressed the American Chinese Collectors Association that his ancestor was in China in the 1930s and abetted locals by offering only two silver dollars to help stole two heads of Buddhist sculptures, which were then secretly transported to the US and remained deserted in his backyard for a long time. The man hoped to commission relevant organs to sell the pieces.

As this is the first ever lawsuit concerning reclaiming stolen cultural relics, some key issues will accordingly arise, Liu added.

First, for example, who will be the plaintiff ? Procuratorates, cultural relics bureau, an individual or State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission are among the possible plaintiffs, according to law experts.

An official from the Luoyang Intermediate Court said that an individual is not excluded as an accuser, but the Luoyang Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau sounds more appropriate.

Another question is: the defendant. Since the man's ancestor is long dead, is it proper to accuse the man? Liu Yang responded by saying that, as long as the article was gained through inappropriate means, it's reasonable to reclaim it from its current holder.

Liu Yang said his first thought of the idea has come from an Egyptian lawyer who had taken the British Museum to court in order to reclaim his country's cultural relics.

Chinese experts have estimated that more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics have been lost overseas.

According to the Chinese Cultural Relics Society, most of the cultural relics were stolen and smuggled out of China, rather than destroyed, before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.


Editor:Du Xiaodan