Posted by: Frederik Balfour on February 23, 2009
I very carefully avoided mention the T-word during my previous blog about the two ancient Chinese bronzes belonging to the estate of Yves Saint Laurent that go on auction at Christie’s in Paris this week. Even so, my blog posting prompted plenty of vitriolic comments even without it. But it looks like Monsieur Saint Laurent’s former partner Pierre Bergé has brought the issue of Tibet out into the open, saying he would hand over the precious artworks to Beijing if it offered greater freedom for Tibet. Talk about adding insult to injury. Nothing sets Beijing off more than being told by outsiders [including this blogger] that it needs to improve its human rights record, and Bergé has risked offending China even further with his suggestion, according to the Financial Times.
However there has been a positive development, indicating the French are starting to recognize just how sensitive this issue has become, and according to the Financial Times, the French court on Monday will consider an emergency request to prevent the sale of the bronzes which were stolen from the Yuanmingyuan [old Summer Palace] in Beijing 150 years ago.
Many commenters on my blog pointed out that my suggestion China should bid for the artworks itself if it wishes to repatriate the bronzes was a bad idea, and over the weekend I came up with another suggestion that could be win-win for all parties concerned: The Chinese, the French, Christies’s and the estate of Yves Saint Laurent. Why not let the French government purchase the bronzes at auction, then make them as a present to Beijing? This would be an enormous diplomatic coup for the French, and mighthelp thaw the often-frosty relations with Beijing. President Nicholas Sarkozy infuriated China last December when he met with the Dalai Lama, and Chinese citizens demonstrated outside French retail chain Carrefour and organized boycotts of the stores last year when the Chinese Olympic torch relay in Paris was disrupted by pro-Tibetan protestors.