might seize farmer’s 17-pound gold nugget by Laura He | February
HONG KONG — Remember the lucky Chinese herdsman
who recently stumbled onto a 17-pound gold nugget? Well,
it seems China’s government hasn’t forgotten, as the nugget’s
finder may now be forced to surrender his find to the state
as a public “mineral resource.”
After the ethnic Kazak herdsman accidentally
tripped over a gold nugget “on bare ground” in China’s far
western Xinjiang region about two weeks ago, the local government
conducted an appraisal of the rock — and an investigation
with various officials to discuss ownership of the treasure,
the government-run Beijing Morning Post reported Wednesday.
News that the gold might be seized has triggered
controversy across China, with legal experts and laypersons
alike debating who should get to keep the giant nugget.
The local cultural heritage authority has
already admitted the nugget isn’t a “cultural relic” — which
would automatically make it a state asset — referring to
it instead as a “mineral product,” a separate report by
the state-run Xinhua Daily Telegraph said earlier this week.
However, the report quoted a lawyer based
in Shanxi province as saying that if the nugget is eventually
determined to be any type of “mineral resource,” it would
still be the property of the government under Chinese law.
Some other law experts disagree, however.
Cheng Jianwei, a lawyer in the northwestern
city of Xining, said that since the nugget was sitting uncovered
on the ground rather than buried below the surface, the
discovery would be outside the legal definition of “inspecting
and recovering mining resources,” according to the Beijing
Morning Post report.
Likewise, China University of Political
Science and Law professor Li Xiandong told the newspaper
that the circumstances of the find show the nugget is “an
ownerless thing,” which should belong to the herdsman.
The report said that if the state does take
the gold, the herdsman’s outlook for compensation might
be dim, noting that in 2011, a farmer found a priceless
Neolithic stone ax while digging on his land but received
a mere 100 yuan ($16) in reward after authorities took possession