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

SAFE briefing on the state of antiquities trade in Vietnam

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Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) has a country report for the state of antiquities trade in Vietnam. The author of the piece is a personal friend of mine.

Written by: Rebecca K. Jones
During the early 2000s there was a massive increase in antiquities looting at shipwrecks along Vietnam’s coast. The government responded by tightening laws, as items from sunken ships without provenance data belong to the state. Along the main antiquities street, Le Cong Kieu near Ben Thanh Market in central Ho Chi Minh, approximately 80% of the items are reproductions. Many traders are honest about the sale of replicas, but many others frequently sell replicas as real artifacts. This dishonesty bleeds into the international art and antiquity market.

Source: VIETNAM – SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone

New book on Battambang Museum collection aimed at preventing sale of stolen statues

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Images from the Wat Po Veal museum. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160607

The Cambodian Museum of Culture has just published a book of stolen antiquities from the Battambang museum, a move which will likely assist in the future repatriation of artefacts if they show up in the art market.

Images from the Wat Po Veal museum. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160607

Images from the Wat Po Veal museum. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160607

With New Book, Quest to Recover Stolen Battambang Statues Begins
Cambodia Daily, 07 June 2016

The Ministry of Culture released a book on Monday of about 68 Khmer sculptures that were stolen from museums in Battambang City during decades of war and conflict, and intends to use the publication in a global search to recover the artifacts.

The result of a painstaking investigation by a restoration team from the National Museum assisted by the French School of the Far East (EFEO), the book proves that, until the early 1970s, the sculptures were at the Battambang Provincial Museum or the Wat Po Veal Museum.

“We want, first of all, to alert the owners of these pieces that what they have is illegally owned: This belongs to the national inventory of Cambodia,” said Anne Lemaistre, country representative for Unesco, which supported the book project.

Full story here.

Reporting from the Unesco Symposium on the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities

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Today and the rest of the week I am at the Unesco Symposium on the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities here in Bangkok, representing my employer SEAMEO-SPAFA. I will be live tweeting the proceedings in my personal capacity on Twitter – follow me @seaarch

Support the safeguarding of Cambodia's heritage

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*URGENT APPEAL*
The Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and USA that restricts the importation of antiquities is up for renewal and it needs your support. More detailed information after the jump, but in summary:

  1. The Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and USA that restricts the importation of antiquities is up for renewal and it needs your support.
  2. Post a comment of support to the US Government http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;dct=PS;D=DOS-2012-0063 (click on the ‘comment now’ button to the right)
  3. You can find ready-made templates to express your support http://www.archaeological.org/CPAC/templates (link to the Archaeological Institute of America page)
  4. This needs to be done BEFORE 6 FEB 2013 – so, do it right now!

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Cambodia's red list of artifacts

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Cambodia has published a red list of artefacts aimed at stemming the looting of artefacts from the country, to be distributed to museums, auction houses and border checkpoints. You can help, too, by supporting local businesses when in Cambodia and not buying marketplace antiquities!

New List Aims to Stem Tide of Cambodian Stolen Antiquities
VOA News, 02 Mar 2010
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Mid-December archaeology linkdump

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It’s mid-December already, and I haven’t posted any news so far on account of being in Hanoi for the first couple of weeks, and then falling majorly sick after returning. So rather than trying to catch up with three week’s worth of archaeology news from Southeast Asia, here’s all of them in one brilliant link dump, sorted by date (most recent ones first) and country.

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