An auction of art, furniture, and other property of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is under way in Paris after a French judge refused China's demand that the sale be stopped.

China says two bronze statues up for sale were stolen from China by French and British troops in 1860.

The Paris court refused to stop the auction. It also ordered the group that filed the suit - the Association to Protect Chinese Art in Europe - to pay court costs to Christie's auction house and Saint Laurent's former partner, Pierre Berge.

Berge had earlier said he would be glad to return the bronze statues of a rabbit and rat if China moves to protect human rights.

Christie's says it expects the Saint Laurent collection of more than 700 pieces to fetch about $400 million. Berge says he plans to donate at least part of the money to medical research.