Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., speaks during a repatriation ceremony in Washington D.C., the United States, Dec. 10, 2015. The United States returned 22 Chinese artifacts and a dinosaur fossil to China on Thursday, highlighting the two world powers' cooperation to counter illicit trafficking of archeological objects. (Photo: Xinhua/Guan Jianwu)
The United States returned 22 Chinese artifacts and a dinosaur fossil to China on Thursday, highlighting the two world powers' cooperation to counter illicit trafficking of archeological objects.
"Their return to China will facilitate our fight against illicit trade in archeological objects, and help us better preserve cultural heritage for our future generations," Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., said during a repatriation ceremony here.
As one of the important deliverables of President Xi Jinping's state visit to the U.S. in September, China and the U.S. reaffirmed their commitment to enhance cooperation on preserving cultural heritage by agreeing on returning forfeited Chinese artifacts, Cui said.
The dinosaur fossil was estimated to be approximately 120 million years old, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a press release.
The cultural artifacts, including jade disks, bronze trays and other items, dated back as far as 1,600 B.C., ICE said, adding that the items were recovered by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, Cleveland and Miami.
"Fossils and treasures like these will always be targeted by bad actors, but we continue to investigate these crimes and repatriate them to their rightful owners," said ICE's Deputy Director, Daniel Ragsdale.
U.S. citizen Eric Prokopi, of Florida, has pleaded guilty to engaging in a scheme to illegally import dinosaur fossils, according to ICE. Prokopi was fined, served time in jail and was subject to 15 months supervisory release.
"The U.S. government has demonstrated a responsible attitude for implementing international treaties and honoring bilateral commitments," said Gu Yucai, China's Deputy Director General of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
The other items were seized in connection with an HSI Miami investigation into an art dealer by the name of Francois Lorin.
In accordance with a bilateral agreement the United States and China signed in 2009, the two countries work together closely to prevent the illicit trafficking of archeological objects.