Dutch court throws out case of disputed Chinese Buddha statue

China Plus/AP Published: 2018-12-12 21:06:13
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A court in Amsterdam on Wednesday has refused to resolve the appeal of returning a Song-dynasty Buddha statue to villagers from Datian County, Fujian Province at the final hearing.

The court threw out the case, saying in a written ruling that the Chinese village committees seeking ownership of the disputed statue are not legal entities and are therefore ineligible to file a claim.

The Zhanggong Zushi Buddha statue is seen during exhibition in Hungary, 2015. [Photo: Xinhua]

The Zhanggong Zushi Buddha statue is seen during exhibition in Hungary, 2015. [Photo: Xinhua]

The villagers and the defendant submitted several rounds of written statements and evidence to the court since the case was brought in May 2016, saying the figure was stolen from their temple decades ago.

A Buddha statue with an intact mummified body inside had been worshiped for over 1,000 years in Yangchun Village. In December 1995, the statue, called Zhanggong Zushi, or Monk Master Zhang Gong, disappeared.

In March 2015, villagers saw in TV news that a statue was on exhibition in Hungary and recognized it as their lost Buddha. Its holder, Amsterdam resident Oscar van Overeem, agreed that the statue came from Fujian, but insists that it is not the statue stolen from the villagers' temple. He once agreed to return it if his conditions were met but negotiations failed. Chinese villagers then filed a lawsuit against him in the Dutch court.

At the last hearing in July, 2017 the Dutch collector stated that he had reached an oral deal and exchanged the statue for other artworks with a "collector-investor-intermediary" who prefers to remain anonymous.

The court allowed a new round of submissions and Van Overeem (VO) refused to provide clear evidence on the exchange and the identity of the new owner.

The court then granted permission to a motion filed by the plaintiffs, to preserve evidence by seizing certain specifically defined data on Van Overeem's computer.

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