December 5, 2013

Cameron harangued online via Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum

Posted at 7:19 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Another week, another trade mission abroad by David Cameron. This one has ended similarly to his trip to India, where all the publicity rapidly became focused on demands for the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond.

In this case, it was the various items that were taken from the Summer Palace in Beijing, after it was ransacked by British troops. Large numbers of these aretfacts ended up in the British Museum, although many more of them are scattered across various private collections around the world. In recent years, there has been more than one instance where once has come up for auction.

What adds interest to this story (from the point of view of this website) is the fact that the raiding of the Summer Palace took place under the command of the Eighth Earl of Elgin – the son of the Seventh Earl, who was the Lord Elgin who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon. As a result, these actions of the Eighth Earl are detested just as much by the Chinese, as those of the Seventh Earl are reviled by the Greeks.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

From:
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Return our looted treasures
Chinese think-tank tells visiting UK PM
Afp, Beijing

British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday faced demands for the return of priceless artefacts looted from Beijing in the 19th century, on the last day of his visit to China.
Cameron travelled to the southwestern city of Chengdu on the third day of what embassy officials said was the largest ever British trade mission to the country.

British officials say deals worth 5.6 billion pounds ($9.2 billion) have been signed so far on the trip, but Cameron has been derided by both Chinese state-run media and the country’s sharp-tongued Internet users.
The prime minister last Friday set up his own microblogging page on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, attracting more than 260,000 followers by yesterday evening.
He invited netizens to ask questions, saying he would aim to reply during the visit.

One of the most popular questions was posted by a prominent Chinese think-tank, the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, which is headed by former vice-premier Zeng Peiyan and includes many top government officials and leading economists among its members.
“When will Britain return the illegally plundered artefacts?” the organisation asked, referring to 23,000 items in the British Museum which it says were looted by the British army.
The British were part of the Eight-Nation Alliance that put down the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century, a popular uprising against the incursion of European imperial powers in China.
To the Chinese, the ransacking of the Forbidden City, and the earlier destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 — about which one British officer wrote: “You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burnt. It made one’s heart sore to burn them” — remain key symbols of how the country was once dominated by foreign powers.
Even now the ruling Communist party appeals to nationalism to bolster its popularity.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters yesterday: “The relevant issue is related to the past history of China as well as the feelings of the Chinese people.
“We hope that relevant countries and authorities and people can respect the Chinese people’s feelings and take a responsible and friendly measure on the relevant issue.”
Asked whether China was asking for the treasures to be returned, he said: “Relevant Chinese authorities are in communication with the government authorities of relevant countries.”
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport in London said the “UK enjoys excellent cultural relations with China”, adding: “Questions concerning Chinese items in museum collections are for the trustees or governing authorities of those collections to respond to and the Government does not intervene.”
Britain has consistently rejected requests from other countries to return artefacts such as the Elgin Marbles.
The British Museum argues the objects are part of world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London.
Beijing was outraged by Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama — whom it condemns as a dangerous separatist — last year, which led to a diplomatic deep-freeze between the two nations.
Despite the trip being billed as a trade mission, it has widely been seen as an attempt to repair some of the damage caused to China-British relations.
But a leading state newspaper launched an attack on Cameron Tuesday, saying in an editorial headlined “China won’t fall for Cameron’s ‘sincerity’” that Britain should recognise it is not a major power but “just an old European country apt for travel and study”.
The prime minister has taken more than 100 businesspeople with him to China, including the heads of Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Royal Dutch Shell and the chief executive of the London Stock Exchange.

From:
Daily Mail

‘Give us back our treasure': Chinese demand Cameron returns priceless artefacts looted during 19th century Boxer Rebellion
PUBLISHED: 16:17, 4 December 2013 | UPDATED: 21:40, 4 December 2013

David Cameron has been inundated with demands for the return of priceless artefacts looted from Beijing in the 19th century as his visit to China draws to a close.

The Prime Minister has to the southwestern city of Chengdu on the largest ever British trade mission to the country.

Last Friday, British officials set up a microblogging page on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, attracting more than 260,000 followers by Wednesday evening.

He invited Chinese citizens to ask questions, saying he would aim to reply during the visit.

One of the most popular questions was posted by a prominent Chinese think-tank, the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, which is headed by former vice-premier Zeng Peiyan and includes of the country’s government officials among its members.

The organization posed the question ‘When will Britain return the illegally plundered artefacts?’ referring to 23,000 items in the British Museum which it says were looted by the British army.

The British were part of the Eight-Nation Alliance that put down the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century, a popular uprising against the incursion of European imperial powers in China.

To the Chinese, the ransacking of the Forbidden City, and the earlier destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 remain key symbols of how the country was once dominated by foreign powers.

One British officer wrote at the time: ‘You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burnt.

‘It made one’s heart sore to burn them’.

Asked whether China was asking for the treasures to be returned, Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Wednesday: ‘Relevant Chinese authorities are in communication with the government authorities of relevant countries.’

In response, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in London said the ‘UK enjoys excellent cultural relations with China.

‘Questions concerning Chinese items in museum collections are for the trustees or governing authorities of those collections to respond to and the Government does not intervene.’

Britain has consistently rejected requests from other countries to return artefacts such as the Elgin Marbles.

The British Museum argues the objects are part of world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London.

Beijing was outraged by Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama – whom it condemns as a dangerous separatist – last year, which led to a diplomatic tensions between the two nations.

Despite the trip being billed as a trade mission, it has widely been seen as an attempt to repair some of the damage caused to China-British relations

But a leading state newspaper launched an attack on Cameron Tuesday, saying in an editorial headlined ‘China won’t fall for Cameron’s “sincerity”‘ that Britain should recognise it is not a major power but ‘just an old European country apt for travel and study’.

The prime minister has taken more than 100 businesspeople with him to China, including the heads of Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Royal Dutch Shell and the chief executive of the London Stock Exchange.

British officials say deals worth £5.6 billion ($9.2 billion) have been signed so far on the trip.

A spokesperson from the British Museum said: ‘There is clearly a serious misunderstanding. There are around 23,000 objects in the Museum’s Chinese collection as a whole, the overwhelming majority of them peacefully traded or collected.

‘Many indeed were made for export. Very few objects entered the collection, in the context of – even less as a result of – the Boxer Rebellion.

‘The Museum has not received any official requests for the return of any objects to China.’

BLOW-BY-BLOW ACCOUNT OF CHINA’S 1899 BOXER REBELLION

Beginning in 1899, the Boxer Rebellion was an uprising in China against foreign influence in religion, politics, and trade.

The ‘Boxers’, otherwise known as the The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, was a secret society consisting largely of people who had lost their livelihoods because of imperialism.

They were given their name because they practiced pugilistic skills as part of their training, some believed they were impervious to Western weapons.

In the summer of 1900 members of the Chinese society roamed northeastern China in bands, killing Europeans and Americans and destroying buildings owned by foreigners.

They also staged sieges on foreign embassies in Beijing, in a bid to bring to an end foreign influence in China and restore to power the weak Qing Empire.

Following a 55-day siege, the embassies were relieved by 20,000 Japanese, American, and European troops from Britain, Germany, Russia, France, Japan and the USA.

After the defeat of the Boxers, punitive expeditions were launched and the Chinese government was forced to sign the ‘Boxer Protocol’ which called for the rebellion’s leaders to be executed and the payment of financial reparations.

During this time it is alleged that many priceless Chinese treasures were looted by the allied nations and taken overseas.

The ransacking of historic Chinese sites is seen as a source of national embarrassment to nationalists in the country today.

Many believe that artefacts from the Boxer Rebellion era are held in the British Museum.

In 2009 calls for a Chinese delegation to be allowed access to the British Museum archives were reported.

But the a spokesperson from the Museum confirmed that as yet, there has been no formal request from the Chinese government to return artefacts

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11 Comments »

  1. Betty Hood said,

    12.05.13 at 7:23 pm

    Good!

  2. MinogueTom said,

    12.05.13 at 7:23 pm

    @elginism There is a large bronze crane from the Summer Palace at Broomhall that was said to have been ” captured” that I reported to police

  3. azuretone said,

    12.05.13 at 7:41 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Cameron harangued online over Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum http://t.co/jIeNTn9C…

  4. Betty Hood said,

    12.05.13 at 7:45 pm

    Betty Hood liked this on Facebook.

  5. Angelos Melatos said,

    12.05.13 at 7:45 pm

    Angelos Melatos liked this on Facebook.

  6. Jacqueline0267 said,

    12.05.13 at 8:54 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Cameron harangued online over Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum http://t.co/jIeNTn9C…

  7. KolinaTales said,

    12.05.13 at 11:47 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Cameron harangued online over Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum http://t.co/jIeNTn9C…

  8. tomkazas said,

    12.06.13 at 12:35 am

    Earls of Elgin, the 7th and 8th, thieves both. Former from Parthenon, latter form Beijing summer palace. http://t.co/wKGXkNl2qY MT @elginism

  9. Inomla said,

    12.06.13 at 1:31 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Cameron harangued online over Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum http://t.co/jIeNTn9C…

  10. Selby Whittingham said,

    12.06.13 at 9:32 pm

    British looting in China was disgraceful and the destruction of works philistine. Works should be returned. The dodging of the issue by the Department of Culture is disgraceful. The department should be broken up. I once considered applying for a post in the Far Eastern Department at the British Museum. The Keeper was very intelligent, but many curators have a narrow vision and consider their own self-interest, while proclaiming their own public spirit.

  11. Matthew said,

    12.07.13 at 2:30 am

    Thanks for this insight – very interesting & confirms what I always suspected.

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