| 18 June 2024, Tuesday |

China state media calls on British Museum to return artefacts

A petition urging the British Museum to recover Chinese artifacts stolen recently is gaining traction on social media in China.

Following an editorial in a state-run nationalist publication, the demand became the most popular topic on Weibo.

Global Times ordered the museum to return all Chinese cultural items “free of charge” in an article published Sunday night.

The Chinese government has yet to comment on the matter.

The BBC has reached out to the British Museum for comment but has not received a response.

The museum has been under pressure after around 2,000 items were reported “missing, stolen or damaged” two weeks ago.

A member of staff was sacked when the news first came out. Last week, its director Hartwig Fischer also announced he would step down.

The British Museum has the biggest collection of Chinese antiquities in the West. According to its website, it has about 23,000 Chinese objects, spanning from the Neolithic age to the present.

These include a large range of precious items such as paintings, prints, jade, bronzes and ceramics. One of the most famous is the reproduction of a scroll called “Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies”, a masterpiece considered a milestone in Chinese art history.

This is not the first time Chinese netizens have called on the British Museum to return artefacts in recent years amid a rise in nationalist sentiment.

“Return the objects to their original owner,” a comment liked by more than 32,000 times reads.

“Now that the country is rich and the people are strong, it’s time to have our treasures back home,” another top comment says.

While tens of thousands support Global Times’ request, some others were not as impressed.

“Why don’t you make a trip to the UK for our treasures? Just shouting on Weibo domestically is just playing safe and shameless,” a post liked by more than 10,000 times says.