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Chinese bidder of looted sculptures refuses to pay

A Chinese man who successfully bid for two looted bronze sculptures auctioned in Paris last week says his winning bid will not be paid.

Cai Mingchao, a collection advisor of National Treasures Fund, bid 31.49 million euros (US$39.63 million) by telephone during the auction at Christie's on Feb. 25, Niu Xianfeng, deputy director of the fund, said at a brief press conference today.

"What I want to stress is that this money cannot be paid," Cai said at the press conference.

"Every Chinese would have liked to do like this at that moment, and I'm honored to have the chance to make the bid," he said.

The National Treasures Fund was established in 2002 under the administration of China Foundation for the Development of Social Culture registered under the name of the Ministry of Culture for the purpose of repatriating looted Chinese artifacts.

A Xinhua reporter asked if he registered at the auction as a representative of the fund, but Cai only answered, "I did this on behalf of all Chinese people."

"The fund faces great pressure and risks by bidding for the two sculptures, but this is an extraordinary method taken in an extraordinary situation, which successfully stopped the auction," Niu said.

Earlier media reports said the 18th Century bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit were sold for 28 million euros as part of an auction of art works owned by the late French designer Yves Saint Laurent.

China has repeatedly demanded the return of the sculptures looted when the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) was burned down by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

So far, five of the 12 bronze animal heads have been returned, while the whereabouts of five others are unknown.


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