Jackie Chan, the action film star, has thrown his weight behind Beijing’s efforts to shame France over the sale of two looted Chinese sculptures that were part of the Yves Saint Laurent collection.
The bronze rat and rabbit, removed when British and French forces sacked the Old Summer Palace in 1860, were sold for €14 million (£12.5 million) each to two anonymous bidders last night, despite Chinese objections.
It’s all pretty silly, because France says it didn’t hear anything from the Chinese government before the sale, and Jackie Chane brought up stolen cultural relics from other nations with ancient heritages like, ahem, Egypt (so I doubt they’ll get much sympathy from the British). And he’s making a movie on the subject. But it’s interesting that France and China aren’t gettin’ along.
Update: It gets better!
With China’s relations with France already chilled by President Sarkozy’s support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and with Mr Bergé having declared that the bronzes should be returned only “when China establishes human rights”, Mr Chan’s arrival to accuse France of behaving disgracefully injects a novel tang into the brawl. The row over the cultural relics has turned into the continuation of diplomacy by kung fu.
This newspaper, too, finds itself playing a cameo role in the drama, since Lord Elgin (no, not that one; his son)* claims to have been motivated to plunder the Palace of Emperor Qianlong to avenge the torture and murder of a score of Western prisoners: one of these victims was Thomas Bowlby, a correspondent for The Times.