Does it really matter which nation possesses looted Chinese treasures?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am

There is a continuing debate about whether it is right for patriotic Chinese to buy long-lost national treasures and return them to the nation.

Last month Stanley Ho Hung-sun paid HK$69 million for a bronze horse head, looted in 1860 from the Summer Palace in Beijing.

I do not think it is necessarily essential for these artefacts to be returned to China.

Take, for example, treasures looted from the Forbidden City during wartime and shipped overseas as booty by the invaders. That is simply the reality of war.

The government of China has recently called for the return of all stolen cultural relics. We are reclaiming things that were lost - that were taken from us - because of other countries' greed.

At that time we were a shattered nation. Recovering these lost treasures is symbolic - it shows we have pulled through those troubled times. We are upholding our national integrity.

At a diplomatic level, if other nations return these artefacts, it would be an act of remorse for what was done all those years ago.

Our country has every right to reclaim these historical relics. At the same time, I do not think it is necessary for their current owners to return them, however traitorous that may sound.

Why is there warfare in the first place? It stems from a desire to possess. It is based on nationalist thinking and the belief in differences between nations. When we ask for these treasures to be returned, that is also based on nationalist thinking about the differences between nations.

The world is full of a variety of nations. We cannot expect them to disappear overnight. But surely it is time for us to assign less importance to the differences between them.

Problems arise when nations come to blows over these 'differences' - with often explosive and catastrophic results.

Does it really matter where these relics from our ancestors are housed?

At the end of the day, who do they really belong to - the Chinese people, or the human race as a whole?

Kerr Li, Kwai Chung