The facade of the British Museum in London, Britain, 23 August 2023. EFE/EPA/NEIL HALL

China demands return of British Museum relics amid stolen antiques scandal

Beijing, Aug 28 (EFE).- Chinese media have called on the British Museum to return all Chinese cultural artifacts that were acquired through improper channels, the state-backed Global Times said in an editorial Monday.

The demand comes after news of the alleged theft of some 2,000 items from the British Museum’s collection.

“The recent revelation that some 2,000 artifacts from the British Museum’s collection inexplicably went missing has shocked not only the UK, but also all other countries that have collections in the British Museum,” the Global Times said.

The alleged theft has sparked a wave of indignation among many countries who have relics within the museum’s collection and have long made claims for the return of the items.

Last week Greece renewed its request for the return of the Parthenon marbles claiming these were not safe in the British Institution.

The Nigerian government also urged the museum to return its Benin Bronzes but the museum is banned from removing items from its collection under the British Museum Act of 1963, something the Chinese media outlet claimed was “hypocritical and ridiculous”.

“We urge the British government to cooperate in the legal and other procedures to facilitate the process, which will be a test and verification of Britain’s sincerity in clearing the colonial stain and making amends for its historical sins,” it added.

“It’s difficult to trace how exactly China lost them to the British Museum, but most Chinese collections were certainly looted or stolen by Britain when it created and later took advantage of China’s crisis, or even directly robbed China,” the editorial continues.

Earlier this month, the British Museum, which is home to one of the most important archaeological collections in the world, fired an employee after finding the loss of gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and glass objects dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century.

The items, which were not on view but in collections open only to scholars and researchers, disappeared from the museum’s storerooms over a long period of time, chairman of the institution and former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said.

Some of the stolen pieces were spotted on online sale sites as early as 2016, according to local press reports.

British media have pointed to archaeologist Peter Higgs, 56, who worked at the institution for three decades as an expert on ancient Greece, as the alleged culprit of the missing objects, although his family has defended his innocence. EFE