<HTML><HEAD> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19019"></HEAD> <BODY> <H2>Authorities tight-lipped over Confucius statue removal </H2> <UL id=source> <LI id=site>Source: Global Times <LI id=get_date>[05:24 April 22 2011] <LI id=pl><A title=Comments href="http://encomment.huanqiu.com/content_comment.php?tid=647504&amp;mid=1&amp;cid=95">Comments</A> </LI></UL> <P><SPAN style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana"><STRONG><IMG alt="" src="cts36796d20bd.jpg"><BR>Tourists pay homage to the statue of Confucius near Tiananmen Square January 13, three days after it was unveiled as a new cultural monument. The statue disappeared Wednesday night with authorities yet to explain why or where it was removed. Photo: CFP<BR><BR>By Li Yanhui</STRONG></SPAN></P> <P>Speculation has been rife over the reasons for the overnight disappearance of a 9.5-meter-high bronze statue of Confucius located in front of the National Museum of China near Tiananmen Square Wednesday.</P> <P>A Global Times reporter found only a deep pit surrounded by construction screens Thursday where the statue had stood.</P> <P>"It was still there Thursday evening when I got off duty," a security guard at the museum told the Global Times Thursday on condition of anonymity. "But it was gone this morning." Another guard said the same thing, but neither was able to say why the 17-ton bronze sculpture had been removed or to where.</P> <P>The statue was erected in front of the north gate of the National Museum of China on January 10.</P> <P>"The statue was designed as a monument to display the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture," its designer Wu Weishan told the Beijing Daily in January.</P> <P>Wu also claimed his work "blends in well with" the Russian style square, according to the newspaper.</P> <P>The museum head L Zhangshen told the Yangcheng Evening News on March 9 that the statue had nothing to do with politics, but was intended to be a cultural icon.</P> <P>"The great museums in Western countries usually have statues in front of their entrances," L said, adding that the Chinese museum should have one too.</P> <P>However, the presence of the statue had led to debate.</P> <P>People.com.cn reported on January 17 that about 70 percent of 220,000 people who took part in an online poll were against the idea of the Confucius statue.</P> <P>The statue's sudden disappearance also led to widespread speculation among Web users as to the reasons behind the move. "It's said this statue was not a legally registered building," a microblogger named Qin Lei posted on sina.com.</P> <P>According to a post on the official microblog of the Southern Metropolis Daily on sina.com Thursday, a worker told the newspaper that the statue had been moved for repairs, and may be brought back at a later date.</P> <P>The Tiananmen area administrative committee refused to comment on the removal Thursday.</P> <P>"(The disappearance) cannot be explained for the time being," a committee employee told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.</P> <P>The publicity office of the museum could not be reached for comment Thursday.</P></BODY></HTML>