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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Handover Ceremony for Repatriation of Cultural Objects: A Beautiful Story of China-UK Cultural Exchange and Friendship
19 October 2020, London

Mr. Martin,

Mr. Ridley,

DC Hayes,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning!

It is a real delight to join you at the handover ceremony for repatriation of Chinese cultural objects.

In my more than 10 years as Chinese Ambassador to the UK, this is the second time I have the honour to witness the homecoming of Chinese cultural objects.

On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the UK Government and Metropolitan Police for your all-out support.

Cultural objects bear witness to the history and symbolize the continuation of civilisation. They are the link between the past and the present. They are also an important bridge connecting different countries and cultures.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of both Chinese and the UK sides, these cultural objects will soon be on their way home.

I think today’s event has three-fold significance.

First, it will give new impetus to China-UK cooperation on the protection of cultural objects.

China and the UK have engaged in sound cooperation in the protection and preservation of cultural objects and archaeology. By taking care of cultural objects, we are contributing to the long-term, greater good of both our countries.

Two years ago, I had the honour to attend the handover ceremony of Tiger Ying, a bronze ware dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty of 1,000 BC that was part of the collection in late 19th century at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. I witnessed this cultural object, which had been away from China for over a century, embarking on its journey back home.

Yesterday happened to be the 160th anniversary of the ransacking of the Old Summer Palace. Past events, if not forgotten, serve as lessons for the future.

Today, we are witnessing again the handover of lost Chinese cultural objects. This is a reminder that history must not be forgotten and similar tragedies must never happen again. This is also a productive outcome of China-UK joint efforts to protect cultural objects so that more lost relics, including the treasures of the Old Summer Palace, can “find their way home”.

Second, this event is a vivid example of China-UK joint efforts in cracking down on smuggling of cultural artifacts.

China and the UK are both contracting parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Our two countries have worked closely together under the framework of the Convention. We have both taken vigorous measures to crack down on the illicit activities prohibited by the Convention.

From 1995 to 1998, with the help of the UK Metropolitan Police Service and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, we realized the handover of 3,000 pieces of cultural objects to China against all the difficulties. That was the biggest repatriation since the founding of New China.

Today’s repatriation, after more than 20 years, offers valuable experience in diplomatic, police and judicial collaboration against the smuggling of cultural objects. It is also a contribution of China-UK wisdom and solution to international cooperation on repatriation of lost cultural objects.

Third, today’s event will inject positive energy into China-UK friendly exchanges.

Both China and the UK have time-honoured history and splendid civilizations. We are both major global players. A sound China-UK relationship serves the interests of both our two countries and the rest of the world.

Mutual respect, harmonious coexistence, dialogue, exchanges and mutual learning between the Chinese and the British civilizations constitute the solid foundation for the development of China-UK relations.

Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, China and the UK have overcome various difficulties and ensured the handover of these cultural objects. Such hard-won achievements will go a long way towards enhancing the mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, and cultural exchange and mutual learning between our two countries. They will also inject positive energy into the steady and sustained development of China-UK relationship.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes,

Pool the wisdom of everyone and there is nothing you cannot achieve.

Gather the strength of everyone and there is no victory you cannot win.

Let’s work together to help more cultural objects find their way home. Let’s join hands to write a new chapter on protecting world cultural relics!

Thank you!

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