A group of Chinese villagers has hired a team of top lawyers to sue a Dutch collector after he refused to return a mummified Buddha statue believed to have been stolen 20 years ago, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Representatives from the Yangchun village, in southeast China’s Fujian province, have signed an agreement with seven lawyers to bring the case to Dutch court, the news agency says.
The Buddha is currently in the hands of a Dutch collector who earlier pledged to return it if the statue’s original owner community can be traced. However, the villagers say he is now backtracking and they have to go to court to win back their statue.
Questions about the 1,000 year old Buddha’s ownership arose when it became the star item in a show at the Hungarian natural history museum in Budapest earlier this year.
Pictures of the Buddha were shown on a Chinese news programme, leading villagers in Yangchun to claim it had been stolen from their temple in 1995.
The owner, whose identity has been kept secret, claims to have bought it for 40,000 guilders (around €18,000) in 1996 from another collector. He is said to have acquired it in late 1994 or early 1995 from a Chinese artist friend, the NRC said at the time.
The statue contains the mummified body of a monk, who the villagers claim is local man Zhanggong Zushi.
Chinese lawyer Liu Yang, who has successfully recovered relics in the past, says the legal action will start at the end of this year.
‘The validity period for recovering the relic is going to expire next year. So we are under pressure to complete the legal work quickly,’ Liu said.
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