French historian, journalist: “Combining Two Ancient Chinese Relics with Human Rights & Tibet issues & Offering a Swap,” “STUPID!”

  PARIS, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) — Two controversial ancient Chinese relics were auctioned on Wednesday night for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) each to anonymous telephone bidders at Christie’s sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge.

Five days before the auction, owner of the bronzes, French businessman Berge, offered to swap the two sculptures for the application of “human rights in China and the freedom of Tibet.”

Such a remark was “very stupid,” Bernard Brizay, French historian and journalist, as well as author of the book “1860: the Looting of the Old Summer Palace,” said in an interview with Xinhua.

Brizay used the word “stupid” five times in his comments on Berge’s move, saying that combining the two relics with human rights and Tibet issues and offering a swap “in a tough and defiant tone” was no different to “blackmailing for ransom.”

Brizay once worked for the Le Figaro newspaper and has published various historical monographs.

Particularly fond of Chinese culture, Brizay has traveled to China on 15 occasions, during which he learned about how the Anglo-French allied forces looted the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in the 19th century.

In 2003, Brizay published “1860: the Looting of the Old Summer Palace,” which, based on first-hand recollections of diplomats, military officers and soldiers that participated in the looting, clearly depicted this catastrophe in the history of human culture with a large amount of valuable details.

The work triggered strong reactions in Western countries, and former French President Jacques Chirac said it “made a contribution to clarifying common episodes of our history.”

Regarding the controversial auction of the relics, a rat’s head and a rabbit’s head, Brizay said they belong to China and should go back to where they came from. Therefore, he fully understood the Chinese anger toward the issue.

The French scholar also expressed support for the attempts by cultural heritage organizations and lawyers to pursue the return of the relics through legal measures.

Brizay noted that in view of the difficulty to collect evidence and challenge the legitimacy of the owner, the possibility of winning the lawsuit was remote. However, such attempts were worth making as it signified China’s firm determination to reclaim the cultural relics.

Despite relevant international agreements, reclaiming relics could be a complicated process, Brizay said.

It is Brizay’s sincere hope that the French government or individual buyers would purchase the two sculptures and return them to China.

“If I had the money, I would have done it,” Birzay said.

The 68-year-old historian has a passionate love and admiration for Chinese people and culture.

Chinese people are intelligent, industrious and energetic, he said.

He could not hold back his tears when visiting the debris of the Old Summer Palace for the first time, Brizay said.

“What the Anglo-French allied forces did was a crime to China and all human beings,” he said, “treasures in the Old Summer Palace are the world’s cultural heritage that not only belong to the Chinese people but also to all human beings.”

“As a citizen of France, the European Union and the world, I also feel myself robbed,” he said.

With such affection, Brizay decided to write “1860: the Looting of the Old Summer Palace” to introduce the tragic history of the Old Summer Palace, which, many French know little about.

Brizay is gratified the book got a lot of attention after the publication of the first edition, which decupled the expected sales volume. The book has been republished for the third time so far.

Editor: Fang Yang

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