AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- An Amsterdam court ruled on Wednesday that the mummy Buddha repatriation case filed by two Chinese villages against a Dutch collector is "inadmissible."
According to the court, it is unclear whether the Chinese village committees have the right to bring legal claims, while the villagers argued that a village committee in China is a "special legal person" under the Chinese civil law.
According to the court, the Chinese law that was invoked by the Chinese villagers had not come into force until Oct. 1, 2017, but "the summons has been issued before that date."
"Legal opinions submitted to the court are not unequivocal," said the court. "For instance whether the village committees are actively functioning, and established according to the rules, and since when."
"Basically, the claim is rejected as it is according to the court not proven that the committees have the right to bring the claim according to Chinese law," said Jan Holthuis, a Dutch lawyer representing the villagers.
"I find this decision hard to digest," said Holthuis. "Because the village committees did bring a claim before the Chinese courts before October 1, 2017, which proves they have legal standing."
"Very disappointing. The court also did not ask anything in this respect during the last hearing," he added. "So we will advise the villagers to appeal this judgement."
Yushen Liu, a Beijing-based lawyer who assists in this case, told Xinhua that a village committee is fully entitled to bring legal claims in China.
"We submitted opinions from legal experts especially addressing the legal status of village committees to explain the situation in detail," he said. "It might be difficult for judges in other countries to have a clear understanding of this. This problem can and must be solved through appeal."
In May 2016, two villages in China's southeastern province of Fujian filed this repatriation case of religious, cultural and ethical significance against Amsterdam inhabitant Oscar van Overeem,
They believe that the statue Van Overeem lent for an exhibition in March 2015 was the one that their villages had worshipped for over 1,000 years before it was stolen from the village temple in December 1995.
Van Overeem agrees that the statue comes from the province of Fujian, but insists that it is not the "Zhanggong Monk Master" as claimed by the villagers. He said that he had exchanged the statue for another artwork with a third party who prefers to remain anonymous. Two public hearings were held in July 2017 and last October.