How to Successfully Fight the Illicit Trade in Stolen Art and Antiquities in Asia? Remove an Antiquated English Law from Hong Kong’s Legal System

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via Antiquities Coalition, December 2018: Prof. Steven Gallagher is the other co-convener on the session about Heritage Management Law and Policy in this year’s SPAFACON. Full policy paper in the link below.

The looting of art and antiquities from Asia is a problem exacerbated by continued demand. This is especially true in China, home to one of the greatest concentrations of millionaires worldwide, where a rapidly growing, newly wealthy class has entered the Asian art and antiquities market, escalating demand in an already thriving sector. Many Asian states that have lost and are continuing to lose cultural patrimony to looting and trafficking have introduced strict laws to combat the removal and unlawful export of art and antiquities from their jurisdiction. Transit and market states, too, have now implemented legal and regulatory frameworks, often based on international law, to deter citizens from dealing in looted art and antiquities or buyers from purchasing such goods when there is any doubt as to their provenance.

However, one of the world’s main markets for Asian art and antiquities, as well as a convenient and much-used transit hub, is a notable exception in having almost no laws intended to prevent this illicit trade: Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework offers little protection for looted art and antiquities, and it retains one obsolete rule of law from its time as a British colony that may not only encourage buyers to purchase looted or stolen works, but also embolden those trying to construct false provenance to pass them through Hong Kong. This law is the rule of market overt, often referred to as a “thieves’ charter,” provided in Hong Kong’s Sale of Goods Ordinance. According to market overt, if someone purchases goods from a shop or market where they are openly on display and are of a type usually sold in such a shop or market, then the buyer acquires good title to the goods so long as they have bought them in good faith. This means that a buyer of looted art or antiquities from a shop usually selling art or antiquities in Hong Kong may resist any attempt by the losing party to recover their lost heritage, and may sell the pieces on to others who will also be safe from any action for recovery.`

Hong Kong has a reputation as one of the world’s leading financial and commercial centers, trusted because of rigorous regulation of its efficient financial and banking services, and confidence in its common law system. It is now also considered one of the world’s foremost Asian art and antiquities markets; however, the retention of an archaic and anachronistic principle of English medieval market law is baffling, especially when this principle has been abolished in the United Kingdom to prevent the flourishing of a “thief’s paradise.”

This policy brief explains some of the problems Asia faces with regard to looting of art and antiquities and loss of cultural heritage, and how Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework does little to prevent Hong Kong from being used as a market and transit state for illicitly obtained cultural patrimony. The brief recommends the simple repeal of section 24 of the Sale of Goods Ordinance to abolish the market overt rule in Hong Kong, as well as standardization of import and export laws between Hong Kong and China, strengthened law enforcement of antiquity-related crimes, and the inclusion of the art market in anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing provisions.

Source: How to Successfully Fight the Illicit Trade in Stolen Art and Antiquities in Asia? Remove an Antiquated English Law from Hong Kong’s Legal System – Think Tank

Fine Arts Department frets over ‘illegal’ gold painting of numerous temples

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via The Nation, 02 November 2018: Puen Ruam Thang, led by veteran singer Suthep Prayoonpitak, told media last week that it had “renovated” more than 200 temples – including those registered as monuments – across the Kingdom and plan to continue doing so.

IMMEDIATE ACTION is required to renovate the hundreds of historical temples painted in gold across the Kingdom, the Fine Arts Department said early this week.

Source: Fine Arts Department frets over ‘illegal’ gold painting of numerous temples

Priest faces raps for Molo convent renovation

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Molo Church, Iloilo City. Source: Panay News, 05 Sep 2018

via Panay News, 05 Sep 2018: Unauthorised renovations made on a century-old church in the Philippines.

Molo Church, Iloilo City. Source: Panay News, 05 Sep 2018

Molo Church, Iloilo City. Source: Panay News, 05 Sep 2018

The Sangguniang Panlungsod’s (SP) committee on tourism and cultural affairs has recommended the filing of charges against Monsignor Maurillo Silva, administrator of St. Anne Parish in Molo district for the unauthorized renovation of the Molo Church’s convent.

The charges could be for violation of Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) and the National Building Code, among others, according to the committee chaired by Councilor Candice Tupas.

Source: Priest faces raps for Molo convent renovation

UK investigates fresh reports of looting of sunken navy ships

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via The Guardian, 19 August 2018: UK Government investigating the looting of sunken navy ships in Malaysian and Indonesian waters.

Infographic on shipwrecks in Malaysian and Indoensian waters from the Daily Mail, 18 August 2018

Infographic on shipwrecks in Malaysian and Indoensian waters from the Daily Mail, 18 August 2018

Gavin Williamson says UK will work closely with Indonesia and Malaysia over claims Second World War ships have been plundered

Source: UK investigates fresh reports of looting of sunken navy ships

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Malaysia firms plunder sunken wrecks for rare steel used to make sensitive medical, scientific equipment

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via The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2018: New research on the illegal plunder of shipwrecks in Southeast Asian waters highlight the role of Malaysian firms

SE Asia News -PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Some Malaysian salvage firms are working with an international syndicate to plunder sunken wartime wrecks in search for rare and highly-sought low-background steel, used in sensitive medical and scientific equipment.. Read more at straitstimes.com.

Source: Malaysia firms plunder sunken wrecks for rare steel used to make sensitive medical, scientific equipment, SE Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Bodies of second world war sailors in Java sea ‘dumped in mass grave’

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via The Guradian, 22 January 2018: The illegal salvage operations in Indonesian waters take a more sombre tone as reports emerge that human remains are being unceremoniously dumped. The second link below is worth taking a look at; it is a more in-depth investigation at the racket and the ships (mostly Chinese and Indonesian) involved.

Illegal metal scavengers accused of disposing of remains from British and Dutch warships

Source: Bodies of second world war sailors in Java sea ‘dumped in mass grave’

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The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

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via The Conversation, 16 November 2017:

More than 48 shipwrecks have been illicitly salvaged – and the figure may be much higher. Museums can play a key role in the protection of these wrecks, alongside strategic recovery and legislative steps.

Source: The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

Angkor demolitions – Local Authorities ‘Cheated’ Angkor Villagers, Official Says

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via Cambodia Daily, 25 August 2017:

A provincial official has acknowledged for the first time that local authorities took money from villagers to allow constructions inside Angkor Archaeological Park, but said on Thursday that the illegal structures would still be demolished.

Deputy Siem Reap provincial governor Ly Samrith said that some villagers had been “cheated” by local officials, but only those who had submitted forms to the Apsara Authority asking for permission would be spared from the weekslong demolition operation that began earlier this month.

“We think that some constructions would be allowed to stay, but if we give them a pardon, they will extend their constructions to the front of the Angkor temple,” he said.

Source: Local Authorities ‘Cheated’ Angkor Villagers, Official Says | Cambodia Daily

Apsara Authority continues removing homes in Angkor

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via Phnome Penh Post, 14 August 2017: The APSARA Authority this week began evicting and demolishing illegal structures – many of them homes – in the Angkor Archaeological Park which were built in the last year. Local residents have begun to protest to the provincial government, but the orders to vacate and the threat of demolition have been made for several months now.

The Apsara Authority and Siem Reap provincial officials have demolished 49 homes out of 520 slated for removal within the Angkor Archaeological Park since Thursday, officials said yesterday.

Source: Apsara Authority continues removing homes in Angkor, National, Phnom Penh Post

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Categories: Angkor Cambodia

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‘Illegal’ Angkor homes dismantled in Siem Reap

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via Phnom Penh Post, 11 August 2018: The authorities have been warning for some time now about dismantling illegal structures in the Angkor Park.

Authorities in Siem Reap province yesterday began tearing down villagers’ homes they say are illegally constructed inside the Angkor Archaeological Park’s protected zones.

Source: ‘Illegal’ Angkor homes dismantled in Siem Reap, National, Phnom Penh Post

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