China to study British Museum for looted artefacts

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The British Museum is to be asked to open up its archives to allow teams of Chinese investigators to document "lost" Imperial treasures which China claims were taken from Beijing's Old Summer Palace when it was burned and looted by British troops almost 150 years ago.

The teams will form part of an international mission to demand the inspection of 1.5 million artefacts mostly held by museums in Britain and France.

China has moved to reassure countries that the intention of the scheme is to merely document archives, however it will raise fears that Britain could be asked to return some treasures.

The mission will send researchers to museums, libraries and private collections – including the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London – in an attempt to build up a comprehensive catalogue of artefacts China says were stolen in 1860, following the Second Opium War.

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