TRIER, GERMANY – A massive statue of Karl Marx, the founding father of communism, was erected in his birthplace on Friday after the southern German city of Trier decided to accept the bronze sculpture from China despite concerns over the country’s human rights record.
The 3-ton statue was erected ahead of the 200th birthday of the influential thinker and philosopher on May 5, when it will be unveiled.
“Karl Marx is Trier’s most famous son,” city official Andreas Ludwig said on Friday.
It depicts a thoughtful Marx holding a book in one hand. The 19th-century thinker spent the first 17 years of his life in Trier near the Luxembourg border. The statue stands over 5 meters (16.4 feet) tall, including the base.
The city council voted in favor of accepting the gift from the Chinese government by 42-7 in March 2017, but the statue has divided opinion.
Some see it as final recognition of Trier’s most famous resident.
“People have predominantly welcomed the gift,” said Michael Thielen, one of two Marx impersonators who will be present at the opening.
Others worry that accepting the gift from China is not compatible with criticizing the country’s human rights abuses.
As recently as March, China has come under criticism from U.N. rights experts for the detention of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who disappeared in November 2016 and is believed to be being held in secret detention.
Since 2015, President Xi Jinping has presided over a widespread crackdown on human rights activists, which has seen numerous lawyers like Tianyong arrested and given long prison sentences.
The Chinese artist behind the bronze statue, Wu Weishan, had previously suggested that it should be placed at the Porta Nigra, an iconic Trier landmark and one of the largest Roman gates north of the Alps. The statue was erected in the end near Simeonstiftsplatz, in the heart of the southern German city.
Marx’s status in Germany is controversial, with some blaming his ideas for the rise of communist dictators, the Berlin Wall and subsequent Cold War division.
Dieter Dombrowski, federal chairman for the Union of Victims of Communist Tyranny, said in a statement, “For the victims of crimes that can be traced back to Karl Marx’s ideas this event is disrespectful and inhumane.”