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China: Catholics saddened at loss of sculptures

 Chinese Catholics have expressed sadness that two bronze animal-head sculptures designed by a Jesuit missionary for Beijing's Summer Palace over 200 years ago, have been auctioned off in Paris.

They say they are disappointed that the law court in the French capital rejected an appeal to ban the auction of the 18th Century works. Each of the sculptures, used as waterspouts in the Summer Palace sold for ¤14 million this week.

Italian Jesuit Brother Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), known as Lang Shining to the Chinese, designed the sculptures for the Yuanimingyuan, on of three royal gardens at the palace. They were plundered by British and French forces in 1860 during the second Opium War.

According to Zong Tianliang, spokesperson for Yuanimingyuan Park, the sculptures hold a lot of historical and cultural meaning for the Chinese nation. "Auctioning them deeply hurts the Chinese people."

Pierre Berge, former owner of the sculptures had said he wanted China to observe human rights, give liberty to the Tibetan people and welcome the Dalai Lama in exchange for the sculptures. A priest from Hebei province in Northern China, who wished to remain anonymous, refuted Berge's offer saying that using religion and human rights to obscure the thefts of the past "reminds me of a similar pretext the Anglo-French forces used for their colonial aggression - to protect Church missioners."