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Call for return of relics unlikely to succeed

A CHINESE legal expert said yesterday that a proposed lawsuit seeking the return of two looted Chinese relics due to be auctioned in Paris is unlikely to succeed.

A team of 81 Chinese lawyers has written to Christie's auction house in an effort to stop the sale of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) bronze rabbit and rat head sculptures.

The lawyers have also written to Pierre Berge, owner of the sculptures, asking him to return them to China.

The lawyers said they would sue Berge in France if their letters failed to receive "positive feedback."

"With full respect to their sincerity and patriotism, I think there is little chance of them winning the lawsuit," Wang Yunxia, a professor of cultural relics law at Renmin University in Beijing, said.

China and France are signatories to the 1995 Unidroit Convention which was intended to facilitate the restitution and return of stolen relics. But Wang said the convention could not be applied retrospectively.

The two bronze heads were stolen when the Old Summer Palace of Emperor Qianlong was burnt down during the Second Opium War in 1860.


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