Democracy monument banned

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 February, 1994, 12:00am

UNIVERSITY authorities in Auckland have banned the erection of a pro-democracy statue by a group of Chinese students because it is too ''political''.

The statue, a copy of the Goddess of Democracy displayed in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 crackdown, was partly financed by Hong Kong and Taiwanese businessmen.

Auckland sculptor, dissident Chen Wei-ming, was commissioned to design the NZ$40,000 (about HK$176,000) monument to the victims of the massacre, which has its fifth anniversary this June.

The idea for the seven-metre-high, 10-tonne statue on campus was backed by Auckland University's Student Union on behalf of the Chinese students who formed the Statue for Democracy Foundation (SDF).

Foundation chairman, Brendon Lane, said: ''Trade organisations overseas decided to finance the statue to honour those who died in the 1989 massacre.'' There is some dispute however, even among the Chinese as to the monument's suitability. One senior lecturer, who asked not to be named, said the proposal was ''unoriginal and overtly American''.

He referred to the statue's resemblance to New York's Statue of Liberty, and added he felt a more traditional Chinese symbol would be more appropriate. The plan was to place the piece outside the Student Union, before the university's Works Committee vetoed the plan.

''Since the Tiananmen Square massacre, expatriate Chinese have been trying to erect a memorial to the martyrs of that event and to symbolise democracy and its aims,'' Mr Lane said.

''In New Zealand this has been a frustrating experience. Several attempts have been made to have the statue erected but these have been refused.'' Another objection to the statue is that it is oversized for its setting.

Works Committee consultant, Ian Reynolds, said: ''I think it totally inappropriate that sculpture be used as a political vehicle - Mussolini and Hitler exhausted that option.'' He said that if the university accepted the proposal it could not refuse others. ''Will we be offered the prospect of a bronze effigy of Sir Robert Muldoon, sponsored by the Young Nats?''