A court in Amsterdam will hold a final hearing Wednesday over a Song-dynasty Buddha statue which villagers from Datian County, Fujian Province say was stolen from their temple.
Six representatives will speak at the court. After the hearing, there will be a judgment.
The Zhanggong Zushi Buddha statue is seen during exhibition in Hungary, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua)
"As the plaintiffs (the villagers) would need to address new facts and evidence, including expert opinion. It would not have been a fair hearing without the plaintiffs having been able to comment on these facts," said Dutch lawyer Jan Holthuis representing the Chinese villagers.
The villagers and the defendant submitted several rounds of written statements and evidence to the court since the case was brought in May 2016.
A Buddha statue with an intact mummified body inside had been worshiped for over 1,000 years in Yangchun Village. In December 1995, the statue, called Zhanggong Zushi, or Monk Master Zhang Gong, disappeared.
In March 2015, villagers saw in TV news that a statue was on exhibition in Hungary and recognized it as their lost Buddha. Its holder, Amsterdam resident Oscar van Overeem, agreed that the statue came from Fujian, but insists that it is not the statue stolen from the villagers' temple. He once agreed to return it if his conditions were met but negotiations failed. Chinese villagers then filed a lawsuit against him in the Dutch court.
At the last hearing in July, 2017 the Dutch collector stated that he had reached an oral deal and exchanged the statue for other artworks with a "collector-investor-intermediary" who prefers to remain anonymous.
The court allowed a new round of submissions and Van Overeem (VO) refused to provide clear evidence on the exchange and the identity of the new owner.
The court then granted permission to a motion filed by the plaintiffs, to preserve evidence by seizing certain specifically defined data on Van Overeem's computer.
"The most important is that we might have secured data on VO's computer with respect to the exchange arrangement with a third party exchanger. Whether the judge will eventually grant the villagers access to these data is part of the ongoing proceedings," said Holthuis.