For not quite one day, former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao got to enjoy being immortalized as a “Hero of Taiwan,” before being unceremoniously taken down and replaced by a pine tree, amid public outrage.
Yesterday, a local advertising company director shocked Taiwan by unveiling a honorary statue of Wen Jiabao at a private cultural park in the northern port city of Keelung. Visitors were perplexed and outraged to see the former CCP leader, barefoot, holding his shoes in one hand, with a message honoring him as a “Taiwan hero.”
The designer of the statue, Lin Kunming, explained that while Wen’s politics may have been different, he had helped to create many jobs in Taiwan, and therefore should be praised for his efforts by the Taiwanese people. “If somebody treats you well, opens up so much, why would you not also treat them well right back? Lin argued.
The park’s president even initially backed Lin up, telling local reporters that Taiwan was an open society, which allows many different voices to be heard in the public sphere, and that visitors should look at the statue with an open mind.
However, it seems that people aren’t quite as open-minded as they had supposed. Focus Taiwan reports that Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang, a member of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) immediately issued a statement when news about the statue broke, saying that it was “absurd” and had received an “extremely negative” reception with the public.
Bending to public pressure, Lin had his company take a vote. The decision was unanimous and they covertly removed the statue overnight, SET News reports.
And so, after all that, Wen Jiabao, “The Hero of Taiwan” was replaced by a pine tree.
Wen was the Chinese premier from 2002 to 2012, presiding over an unprecedented time of warming relations between the mainland and Taiwan. By his last year in office, Taiwan was even allowing independent travelers from the mainland to visit for the first time in more than six decades.
In fact, “Uncle Wen” revealed that his own retirement wish was to visit to Taiwan as an independent tourist, saying that if he was too old to walk, he would still go even if he had to crawl.
With DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen set to take office next month, that is looking more and more like a possibility. Meanwhile, Wen can at least take solace in the fact that his statue’s early demise follows that of the Great Helmsman, whose 36-meter-tall golden likeness was unceremoniously torn down earlier this year for simply shining too bright.
[Images via Focus Taiwan]