China retrieves 68 cultural relics from Britain

BEIJING, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) — A total of 68 cultural relics have been returned to China from Britain, said the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) on Wednesday.

The cultural relics, which were smuggled overseas, were retrieved following joint efforts from the administration and the country’s foreign affairs and customs authorities since January.

Some of the cultural items have significant historical, artistic and scientific value, said Guan Qiang, deputy head of the administration.

The artifacts were returned home after a long journey of 25 years. Captured by the British police in 1995 when smuggled to Britain, they were later identified by NCHA personnel as lost cultural relics of China.

However, the buyer of the relics refused to negotiate and the items were held in custody by the British police until this year. In January, the British police informed China that the buyer was missing and the prosecution limitation period had been terminated, and offered assistance to help return the artifacts to China.

The retrieved cultural relics, dating back as far as the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C.-476 B.C.), through the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.) and on to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), are being exhibited on the administration’s website.

“It is a remarkable achievement jointly made by China and Britain in the pursuit and repatriation of lost relics in recent years,” said Guan, adding that international law and order in this regard has seen historic change.

In 1989, China accepted the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and has since entered into bilateral agreements on fighting the illegal transfer of and facilitating the repatriation of relics with more than 20 countries.

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