Friday, 14 December 2018

Dutch court throws out case of disputed Buddha statue

(Photo/Xinhua, edited)
A Dutch architect Oscar van Overeem bought a lacquer stature in 1995 for 40,000 Dutch guilders ($20,500) in 1996 from a collector in Amsterdam who had acquired it in Hong Kong and it turned out that it had mummified human remains in it which makes it unique (Nick Squires'Mummified monk revealed inside 1,000-year-old Buddha statue' Telegraph 24 Feb 2015). It then transpired that two villages - Yangchun and Dong Pu in southeastern Fujian province, say that a statue containing the remains of an 11th-century monk was stolen from their shared temple in 1995. They claim it is the one that ended up in the collection of this Dutch art collector. The latter denies that the statue he has is the stolen antiquity. The village committes went to court, the case is one of the first attempts to repatriate Chinese antiquities through a legal approach instead of diplomatic channels. Now:
A court in Amsterdam has refused to resolve a legal dispute over ownership [...] The civil court in Amsterdam threw out the case Wednesday, saying in a written ruling that two Chinese village committees seeking ownership of the disputed statue are not legal entities and are therefore ineligible to file a claim. 
Associated Press, 'Dutch court throws out case of disputed Buddha statue' Idaho Statesman Dec 12, 2018). There however is a snag with such a judgement,
Huo Zhengxin, vice dean of the School of International Law of China University of Political Science and Law, said the Dutch court failed to refer to laws of the plaintiff's country, which is Chinese law in this case. Village committees are entitled to file lawsuits, according to Article 96 of the General Principles of Civil Law. Sun Tian, 'Expert advises plaintiffs to appeal Dutch court ruling on stolen Buddha statue', Global Times 2018-12-14 )
I think the issue here however is why collectors think they have the right to buy human remains and hang on to them like this. Once again, the ethics of the antiquities trade are in question.

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