China condemns Christie's auction

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The strong statement said China did not recognise the 31m euro (£28m, $39m) sale of the bronze rat and rabbit.

It also ordered tighter checks on artefacts that Christie's auction house takes into or out of China.

The bronzes were sold as part of the estate of late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

China says the animal heads were part of a collection of 12 looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 when it was sacked and burnt by French and British armies during the Second Opium War.

The animals represent the Chinese zodiac, and adorned a fountain built for the Emperor Qianlong.

China has managed to track down five of the other statues, which are now displayed in a Beijing museum. It had earlier called on Christie's to stop the bronzes' sale.

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