A senior mainland official described last week's botched auction of looted Chinese relics in Paris as 'a lesson to the world', while the public and media weighed in behind the collector who claimed to be the winning bidder but said he was not prepared to pay up. Two bronze animal heads sold for Euro15.7 million (HK$153.8 million) each at a Christie's auction in Paris last week. Xiamen antiques collector Cai Mingchao said yesterday that he was the final bidder but said he 'won't pay the money'. Zhao Qizheng, the newly appointed spokesman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said many delegates had told him that '[we] should not regard the fact that Christie's proceeded with the auction, despite Chinese lawyers' attempts to stop it, as a failure'. 'Because it teaches the world a lesson , including the French,' Mr Zhao said yesterday in Beijing. The attempted auction of the looted animal heads made headlines across the mainland and Mr Zhao said it had prompted people to question French values. 'Some Chinese netizens have asked what has happened to France - a nation whose culture we have admired for so long. Is France sick? What values do the French hold?' he said. 'The famous writer Victor Hugo said two robbers entered the Old Summer Palace, one was called England and the other France. I hope one day that France can free itself and cleanse itself by returning the items they looted to China.' Quoting Bernard Brizay, the French author of 1860: the Looting of the Summer Palace, Mr Zhao said 'the looting of the Old Summer Palace cuts deep into Chinese hearts and is similar to the mental suffering the French would have experienced if Prussian troops had destroyed the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and their national library'. Mr Zhao's semi-official comments reflected strong criticism of the sale, especially on the internet. Most netizens appeared to support Mr Cai's tactics but some warned of the dangers of using nationalism to rationalise an 'auction rule violation'. On website 163.com, one Sichuan netizen asked: 'Why should we pay the French looters? We shouldn't even pay a penalty [for defaulting on the purchase]. We should use the logic of a robber to deal with a robber country.'