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Top student statue gone after wave of criticism

By Hou Liqiang in Beijing and Zhou Lihua in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-03 07:31

Sculpture was intended to inspire his schoolmates to 'study hard'

A high school in Hubei province on Thursday removed a statue of a top student from its campus after critics launched a Web campaign.

Laifeng County High School erected the stone sculpture of Yang Yuan on April 2 to mark his academic achievements.

The student earned the highest mark in the 2012 national college entrance examination among all students in the Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture and has since been enrolled at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing.

But images of the statue uploaded to Sina Weibo, the popular micro-blogging platform, over the weekend led to a wave of criticism - including from Yang himself, who on Thursday said he had no idea about the project.

"It's not appropriate," he said in a conversation with China Daily over the QQ instant messenger service. "Don't erect a monument for someone alive. Only write a biography for someone dead," he added, quoting a Chinese saying.

According to an online survey by news website Sina, which had attracted 3,300 votes as of Thursday, more than 73 percent said it was wrong to commemorate someone simply because they had been accepted by a top university, suggesting it sent the wrong message.

"Statues should be for heroes and martyrs who contribute to society," said Huang Wanguo, director of Laifeng's education bureau. "Yang is a student. It's OK to promote him, and give out publicity material with his picture on. Don't erect a statue."

Zhou Man, the school's principal, said he was surprised by the controversy surrounding the statue, and explained that it was intended to mark one of the newly built private school's first graduates.

"I only wanted to set an example for the students, to encourage them to study hard," he said.

Some people disagreed with removing the sculpture.

"It wasn't right to erect the statue, but it's wrong to remove it, too," said Xia Xueluan, a professor of sociology at Peking University. "We can try to think about how to make full use of the statue to get a better result but not remove it."

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