February 28, 2024

Britain must face multilateral demands to return looted artworks

The British Museum is known as a “symbol of massive theft” despite its apparently surplus collection – of the more than eight million objects in the museum, the vast majority come from other countries. Over the years, several countries have attempted to recover looted artefacts from the United Kingdom. It was recently visited by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mitsotakis has been visiting the United Kingdom since Sunday (local time). He pointed out that “there is no reason to dispute the ownership of these artifacts, as they belong to Greece and were stolen.”

The British Museum is a gallery of British colonial history. It contains about 23,000 Chinese artifacts. According to incomplete statistics from UNESCO, at least 1.64 million Chinese cultural objects have been lost abroad. The British Museum contains one of the largest collections of lost Chinese artefacts.

Many countries, including China, have made unremitting efforts to recover looted cultural property, but the United Kingdom has consistently refused to return it, citing the need to “protect the security of cultural property.” In August this year, it was revealed that around 2,000 treasures had disappeared from the British Museum’s collection, some of which were for sale online. This has plunged the museum into a crisis of credibility, and its ability to protect the “security of cultural property” has been called into question. Many countries, including China, have once again called on the British side to return cultural assets.

Cultural relics are the continuation and bearer of the culture of a country and nation, and contain historical sentiments and cultural memories. Over the years, many countries of the world have not stopped recovering cultural objects looted from the British Museum as well as the British government in order to protect the cultural heritage of the country and nation as well as eliminate the remnants of colonialism which is basically part of the international anti-colonial movement.

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The colonial era is over. The British side must confront the legitimate demands of many countries and return the looted cultural assets as quickly as possible. Valuable cultural artifacts from various countries that remain in the British Museum must be returned to their homeland. The dark colonial history of the United Kingdom must become a comprehensive and inclusive history.