China Threatens Looting Treasure Hunters in S. China Sea

By MarEx 2011-11-04 15:43:05

China state media said on Friday that will be actively pursuing individuals looking for treasure to loot from sunken ancient merchant vessels on the South China Sea without governmental permission and oversight.

According to the Hainan province's Cultural Heritage Bureau, there are 48 cultural relic sites in Xisha which have all been looted to some degree, and 26 of them almost completely looted.  Some treasure seekers have implemented explosives into their operations in attempts to gather porcelain, gold, and silver lying on the bottom of shipwrecks around the Paracel Islands.  The Paracel Islands lie across the historic maritime route of the Silk Road, an ancient route that served as a bloodline for worldwide maritime and inland trade.

PHOTO: TransAsia trade routes from the 1st century.

China Daily reported officials as saying that they will strengthen the surveillance and boost law enforcement manpower in order to curb the looting.  They also said the use of explosives and other looting methods are negatively affected the safety of these culturally relevant underwater relics.

The Chinese government is committed to trying to preserve the historically ancient sites on the bottom of the sea as they proclaimed to China Daily, “It remains a tough job to enforce the law in such a huge area, but we will not relent.”  An official said that multiple agencies and departments of their government are discussing further measures to ensure the safety of these relics.

In April of 2011, Chinese law enforcement had seized 6 boats contracted by looters and had confiscated over 1,400 porcelain artifacts from the sunken ships. 

The South China Sea is a large area that also has conflicting territorial claims with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and more Southeast Asian States.  Other than cultural sites beneath the surface, the South China Sea is also believed to house untapped natural reserves of oil and natural gasses.