Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chongqing Dispatch: Wang Lijun's Planned Police Monument

In early April, a few days after I arrived in Chongqing, a friend called to tell me about a construction project that Wang Lijun had started in November of last year – "The Wall of Police Heroes and Martyrs." The unfinished project, located at Gele Mountain's Yunding Peak (云顶峰) inside the Forest Park, is unknown to the public except for observant tourists who happen upon it and notice the construction signs.  

Police Monument: artist rendering of the visual effect

Work on the site started around the time of Neil Heywood's alleged murder in Chongqing.  One can’t help but imagine that, right up to the moment of Heywood's death, Wang Lijun was still immersed in his police hero fantasy.  Local sources told me that Wang was a big fan of Hollywood police-hero movies and TV shows, and fancied himself as such.  He had also ordered a local writer, Huang Jiren, a friend from my youth, to put together a heroic biography for him. This police monument might have been more for himself than for his fallen comrades.

tram track for the project
The project, undertaken by a construction company that has not been paid for their work so far, was not halted until the week of my visit to the site in mid-April, more than two months after Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chengdu on February 6. Such a long delay makes one wonder how many matters are left from the Bo Xilai period that will have to be dealt with in the months and years ahead.

construction site

On April 15th, I went to the mountain with two friends; one of them was familiar with the project and upset about its destruction to the protected national forest park.  He said Wang Lijun had not obtained any permits from either the National Forestry Bureau or the Bureau of Parks and Woods, both of which oversee the forest park. Wang simply told the park that this was where he wanted to build the police monument.  "Who are we to resist his order?" A park manager is claimed to have said.

The planned monument comprises a platform of 1000 square meter and a series of 72 columns rising from the platform to the top of the mountain. The estimated cost is 5.97 million yuan, but some say it would likely cost ten times as much. If built, the project would effectively reshape the mountain peak.

The construction area was closed off with temporary walls and fences surrounding the mountain top, but we found a small gap between them and squeezed ourselves inside. We climbed up along leaf-covered mountain paths. 

Origin of Chongqing's Coordinates
At the highest point on Yunding Peak stands a slab that says "The Origin Point of Chongqing's Coordinates." The symbolic significance of the point might have been the reason Wang Lijun chose the spot for his monument. 

Going down from there, along a flight of stone steps, one could see a series of naked metal poles – intended to hold up the 72 columns – gradually spiraling into a huge pile of cement bags.  A tram track, exclusively built to transport construction materials for this project, runs down the hill to meet the road that construction vehicles can access.

Staring at a pair of concrete bases, one of the friends said miserably, "Now what is the government going to do about it?  To let the monument continue to be built?  Or to deconstruct what is already laid?  What a big waste!"

I wondered if the name of the monument was inspired by the "Wall of the Paris Commune." Wang Lijun must have really wanted his name to go down in history.  And it may, just not the way he thought.

The next day, I described the project to The Telegraph's Malcolm Moore, who also happened to be in Chongqing at the time.  He subsequently visited the site and mentioned it in a report on April 18th.

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