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Re: Chinese fossils 'for sale' (Re: The Lake Psittacosaurs)

Tom Holtz wrote:

>Here is the news from Professor Ji: there is no such thing as a fossil from
>Liaoning which was obtained legally.  By law, they cannot be sold.  The
>dealer might not be aware of this (I realize stuff goes through several
>hands before it reaches these shores), but in point of (legal) fact any
>Liaoning specimen in private hands anywhere outside China was illegally

In late 1996, I wrote a feature for New Scientist on the Chinese fossil
mess, and have followed it since. At the time I wrote that article, various
Chinese authorities told me exports were illegal, but some outsiders said
they had not been able to find any written Chinese laws that said so. I
suspect the difference may reflect an expansion of "antiquities" laws to
cover fossils as well as cultural artifacts. There also are many levels of
Chinese government, some less concerned about fossils than others, and from
the number of fossils that have leaked out, it's clear that there are some
pretty efficient smugglers. China is not the only country with big
fossil-smuggling problems, but it's the one with the hottest fossils. --
Jeff Hecht