US returns forfeited Chinese artifacts

Updated: 2015-12-11 08:59

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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A microraptor fossil estimated to be about 120 million years old and 22 forfeited Chinese artifacts were returned on Thursday afternoon to the Chinese government by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The artifacts include jade disks, bronze trays and pottery dating back as far as 1600 BC, according to information provided by ICE.

In a ceremony held at the Chinese embassy in Washington, Ambassador Cui Tiankai thanked the US side for helping the treasures find their way back home.

"Their recovery is the result of seamless coordination among so many people from various agencies of China and the United States – from diplomats to scholars, from police to customs officers, from border control to immigration officials. It is indeed another testament to the width and depth of China-US relations," Cui told a crowd attending the ceremony.

In 2009, China and the US signed a memorandum of understanding on import restrictions on archaeological materials from the Paleolithic Period through the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old.

"When the 22 artifacts arrive in China, they will bring home with them the friendship and goodwill of the American people," Cui said.

"The repatriation of these items is a great success for the United States and for the Chinese government and its people," said US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan.

"Cultural heritage endures as a reminder of the contributions and historical experiences of humanity, and we must continue to work together on many fronts to safeguard it," she said.

This is the second time the US government has repatriated such artifacts to the Chinese government after the signing of the MOU. The last time was in March 2011 when 14 artifacts were repatriated by ICE.

The two governments announced in late September during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the US that the US will repatriate forfeited artifacts to China.

This time the artifacts were recovered by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) offices in New York, Cleveland and Miami. The microraptor fossil was falsely manifested as a "craft rock" and later as a "fossil replica" to conceal the shipment’s true contents.

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