Investigation team set up for controversial Cowherd and Weaver Girl sculpture in C.China’s Henan
Published: Aug 30, 2023 12:26 PM
The Cowherd and Weaver Girl sculpture in Central China's Henan Province, on August 28, 2023 Photo: VCG

The Cowherd and Weaver Girl sculpture in Central China's Henan Province, on August 28, 2023 Photo: VCG

Pingdingshan city authorities announced on Thursday that a joint investigation team has been set up covering housing, finance, audit, discipline inspection sectors to conduct in-depth investigation over the 7.15 million-yuan ($983,911) Cowherd and Weaver Girl sculpture triggering wide controversy due to its design and high cost. The findings of the investigation will be announced in a timely manner.

Lushan county authorities of Pingdingshan, in Central China's Henan Province said on Tuesday night that it has removed the director of the county housing and construction bureau from office.

The county has established an investigation working group, while also handing out an administrative punishment to another employee surnamed Li, who also works in the county housing and construction bureau, due to the employee's "inappropriate words," according to the notice released by the authorities.

The county will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the project design, cost, bidding process and other issues of public concern, read the notice. County authorities also apologized for the negative social impact caused by the incident and sincerely apologized for the harm caused to the public by the inappropriate words of individual employees.

The project didn't submit construction permits and skipped the planning approval procedures, so that the county urban management authorities didn't provide supervision timely, The Beijing News reported on Wednesday. Whether it's an illegal construction, it should be based on the conclusions by the joint investigation team, said the report, citing one official from the county urban management bureau.

The sculpture was unveiled in Lushan county on China's Qixi Festival this year, the day often referred to as Chinese Valentine's Day. The county was removed from the poverty-stricken county list in 2020, with many questioning whether it's necessary for the county to spend a large amount of money to build a sculpture.

Many netizens also questioned the design, which was similar to another sculpture in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, built in January 2021, according to media reports. In addition to the base and figure parts are different, the main structure, material, color matching and the sculpt are almost the same, the netizens noted. 

When a reporter called the Lushan county government office to inquire about concerns raised over the sculpture, an employee said they have "no idea" several times.

A local tourist guide claimed that he received a threatening email demanding him to delete relevant comment, and also attached with his son's private information. Local authorities have contacted the tourist guide and apologized, saying that the email was not sent by a local official, and that the case remains under investigation by local police, according to Ji'nan-based news application Xinhuanghe on Wednesday.

Based on the public information, the project issued a bidding announcement on June 14 this year, with the tender process beginning on July 6, however, the winning bid was announced on the same day, according to media reports. However, some netizens posted a video on June 23, claiming that the base of the sculpture had been built, according to reports.

In 2020, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has issued notice to strengthen the management of urban public art and sculptures. The ministry strictly prohibits building large sculptures that are detached from reality and from public sentiment in the name of cultural inheritance, tourism development, and image enhancement.