Chinese villagers head to court to recover a 1,000-year-old mummified monk inside a Buddha statue15 липня 2017
Chinese villagers have taken their campaign to retrieve a “stolen” 1,000-year-old mummified monk to a Dutch court, as China ramps up efforts to reclaim precious artefacts scattered across the globe – including in the UK.
The latest legal battle involves residents of Yangchun in south-eastern China seeking to force a Dutch art collector to return a Buddha sculpture which they claim went missing from their village in 1995.
The villagers say the 1.2 metre-tall golden sitting Buddha, which is called Zhanggong Zushi, contains the skeletal remains of one of their ancestors, a monk who lived and was worshipped in Yangchun since the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD)
The sculpture sat in a temple in the village for a thousand years, the villagers claim, before being stolen 22 years ago.
One of the locals recognised the sculpture after it was displayed at an exhibition in Hungary in 2015 and the village has banded together to try to recover it with the help of the Chinese government.
"I am very confident we will win the case,” said lawyer Liu Yang, ahead of the first day of the Amsterdam trial on Friday.
“The statue belongs to the villagers, and I think the Dutch owner should act in a graceful way to take himself out of a predicament," he told The Telegraph.
Mr Liu has previously fought a series of cases to retrieve allegedly stolen Chinese artefacts from abroad.
Beijing has made the return of such relics a priority as it flexes its growing international muscle and tries to build public support at home.
Chinese state media say more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics have yet to be returned.
In 2013 French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault returned two bronze fountainheads from Beijing's Old Summer Palace.
The site was ransacked by British and French troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War, an event seen in China as a national humiliation.
Many in China also believe artefacts which are now at the British Museum were originally pillaged from that monument, and later, at the destruction of the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion.
The British Museum previously said the “overwhelming majority” of its Chinese collection, which numbers around 23,000 items, were “peacefully traded or collected”.
However, Mr Liu said Chinese artefacts exhibited in Britain were a “big issue” in China, and that the legal team involved in the court battle for the Buddha would use that experience to devise a strategy against “museums in other countries”.
Asked directly if China was considering retrieving artefacts at the British Museum, he said: “Once China knows how to do it through the courts, China will do it.".