AFP is now reporting that the buyer of the Zodiac clock statues that China hotly disputes is Chinese. What remains unclear is whether the buyer is now reneging on his bid or whether his bid was meant to be a “trap.” Remember the earlier statements from China that Christie’s was trying to convince the buyer to reach an amicable settlement:
Cai Mingchao, a well-known antique collector, identified himself as the mystery bidder in a statement released in Beijing by the National Treasures Fund, which is dedicated to retrieving Chinese relics from abroad.
“I believe that any Chinese person would stand up at this time… I am making an effort to fulfill my own responsibilities,” Cai said. “But I must stress that this money I cannot pay.” [emphasis added]
The statement did not specify whether Cai could not pay for the relics because he did not have the money, or whether his inability to pay was for other reasons, such as his conscience not allowing him to buy looted items.
Officials with the fund did not take questions when they gathered reporters and released the statement, which said Cai is an advisor to the body.
Cai, who is also the head of a Chinese auction house, hit the headlines in 2006 when he paid 116 million Hong Kong dollars (14.95 million dollars) for a Ming dynasty Buddha image at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong.