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Campaigners had tried to launch a judicial review to halt the auction following Croydon council's decision to sell in the hope of raising more than HK$113m (£9m) to help redevelop the borough's Fairfield Halls venue.

However, protesters' attempts to find £20,000 to cover the legal challenge seem to have fallen about £4500 short and the sale was set to go ahead as planned in Hong Kong on November 27.

The decision to sell was challenged by those who said it went against council policy and was contrary to most of the conditions laid down by businessman and collector Raymond Riesco who donated the collection to the borough nearly 50 years ago. Croydon said the decision to sell was based on "exceptional circumstances to provide investment for the future benefit of culture in Croydon".

The Christie's introduction to the sale (The R.F.A. Riesco Collection of Important Chinese Ceramics) stated: "These very fine works - which are predominantly Ming dynasty (1368-1644), as well as Qing dynasty (1644-1911) examples and monochromes from the Early period (11th-13th century) - come fresh to the market with strong provenance."

The rest of the 206 items from the Riesco Collection remain on show to the public at the Riesco Gallery in the Croydon Clocktower.