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The law, which was introduced in November 1982, keeps the monopoly on transactions of cultural property with the State. Private citizens are only allowed to buy artefacts from certified shops and auction houses under the existing laws, or obtain them through inheritance, or donation. Foreigners are excluded from acquiring anything pre-1800.

The bid to change the law comes after calls by some legislators to protect cultural property by setting up a well-regulated trade and discouraging black market activity. They say the Chinese tradition of collecting is as strong as ever and point to corruption among the management of cultural treasures as evidence of the need for change.

Strict limits are expected to be introduced on what can and cannot be traded if the amendment is passed, with the state maintaining overall control.