Pro-Beijing activists jailed for damaging Japanese-era statues in Taiwan

Activists sentenced to between four and five months in prison after two attacks on lion-dog outside school in Taipei

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 9:58am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 3:39pm

A Taiwanese court has jailed four pro-Beijing activists for vandalising a pair of stone komainu, or lion-dog, statues dating back to the Japanese colonial period.

The Shilin District Court sentenced both Lee Cheng-lung and his female accomplice, Chiu Chin-wen, to five months in prison, and two others to four months’ imprisonment. They have the right to appeal to a higher court.

Lee and Chiu, both members of the China Unification Promotion Party, were initially arrested on the spot on the evening of May 28 for smashing the century-old stone statues, located at the entrance to the Yixian Primary School in Taipei’s Beitou district, with hammers.

The vandalism left the statues without part of their front legs.

The pair broadcast their assault live on Facebook, during which Chiu called the statues “garbage left by imperial Japan” and said it was inappropriate for them to be outside the school.

Angered by a court’s decision to keep Lee and Chiu in detention, Wang Chi-bin and Lu Chen-yuan, also members of the same party, went to the school two days later and inflicted further damage to the statues with a wooden stick.

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Due to the statues’ historical significance, the school’s principal decided to press charges. Resembling those that typically stand guard at the entrance of a shrine, the komainu statues, standing on both sides of the school entrance, have long been cherished for protecting the pupils’ safety.

Earlier in June, Lee and Chiu were charged for decapitating a bronze statue of a Japanese civil engineer Yoichi Hatta at a park in Tainan.

The pair, who confessed to the vandalism during questioning, told police that they cut off the head because they did not agree with the historic treatment of Hatta.

Hatta, who was stationed in Taiwan from 1910 to 1942, during which time he oversaw the construction of key civil engineering projects, is widely lauded for his contribution to Taiwan’s development.

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The vandalism happened in the early morning hours of April 15, only three weeks before an annual service to commemorate Hatta was to be held at the park, which was commissioned in 2011 to honour his contributions to Taiwan.