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Antique auction frustrates Chinese official: state media

BEIJING -- A Chinese cultural heritage official has hit out at a planned auction in Britain of two antiques it claims were looted from Beijing in the 19th century, state media said Friday.

London-based auctioneers Bonhams will auction a Qing dynasty jade disc and a jade hanging vase which were “retrieved from the abandoned Summer Palace in Beijing” in 1860, the company said in an online statement.

An official from China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage slammed the auction as “against the spirit of international conventions,” the state-run China Daily reported.

“Cultural relics should be returned to their country of origin.” Tan Ping, the official, said. “We'll keep a close eye on the matter.”

The Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, was pillaged by British and French military forces in 1860, when Beijing says 1.5 million relics were looted, though it is likely some antiques were sold off by local dealers.

The event is seen in China as a national humiliation at the hands of Western armies, and sales of antiques looted from the palace are widely resented in China.

The two antiques have a combined estimated value between 100,000 and 180,000 British pounds (US$160,000-US$290,000), and will go up for auction on Nov. 8th, the auctioneer said.

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