According to The Scotsman, China has demanded the return of looted imperial bronzes due to be auctioned in Paris as part of the estate of the late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The bronzes -- a rat's head and a rabbit's head -- disappeared in 1860, when French and British forces looted and then burned the former summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing at the end of the second Opium War.
The two relics date back to the early Qing dynasty, established by invading Manchu tribesmen in 1644. They were made for the Zodiac fountain of the summer Imperial Palace. They are expected to sell for as much as £9 million each at the auction on 23-25 February. There have been calls in China for a boycott of French goods and China has cancelled talks with the European Union in protest at talks between Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese accuse of supporting Tibetan separatism.
Fashionista heaves a sigh of relief that China isn't making any threat to appropriate the YSL brand and 'liberate' it for general use. Such sanctions are available and may be awarded for failure to comply with World Trade Organization norms of conduct, but this doesn't apply to disputes between a state and an individual, which is effectively what this is.