Almost a year ago, on June 4, 2021, the Liberty Sculpture Park in Yermo introduced two sculptures by Weiming Chen, the “CCP Virus” Sculpture and another titled “Victims of Communism.”
A little over a month later in July 2021, agents of the Chinese Communist Party with ties to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, repeatedly attacked the CCP Virus sculpture, eventually burning it to total destruction July 23, 2021, according to charges unsealed in March 2022 by federal prosecutors.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the two alleged perpetrators are Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, and Matthew Ziburis, 49, identified as having once lived in New York.
Liu and Ziburis, participating as functionaries of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, engaged in acts of “‘transnational repression” aimed at advancing the interests and position of the Chinese government, one of which included a plan “to destroy the artwork of a dissident artist whose work is critical of the People’s Republic of China government.”
According to the Department of Justice, Liu and Ziburis executed upon that plan and “the artist’s sculpture depicting [China President Xi] Jinping as a coronavirus molecule was demolished in … 2021.”
The Chinese Ministry of State Security was quite intent on discrediting Chen, and was particularly sensitive with regard to the implication of Chen’s CCP Virus piece, which by its theme and form implies that the COVID-19 virus was deliberately unleased by the Chinese government upon the Western Democracies.
Not only did Liu and Ziburis destroy the original CCP Virus sculpture, Liu, believing that Chen was generating considerable income from his work as a sculptor that he was not duly reporting to tax officials, employed a Queens, New York private investigator to deliver bribes to an IRS agent in an effort to obtain Chen’s tax returns.
The private investigator played along, but upon being directed to deliver a bribe to a federal employee, contacted the FBI. The investigator provided to the federal government information about Liu’s and Ziburis’s activities.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Liu had acquired Chen’s tax information with the intent of publicly disclosing that Chen was underreporting his income and underpaying his taxes. This, it was thought, would alienate the U.S. Government from Chen and leave Chen bitter toward his adoptive country.
In March 2021, while cooperating with the FBI and with Chen’s full knowledge and consent, the private investigator passed along to Liu copies of two of Chen’s tax returns.
“Based on his high price quotes for his artwork, we believe he definitely took in a large sum and evaded taxes, a major crime in the U.S. After obtaining evidence, spend money for court and attorney fees to totally get rid of him,” Liu wrote to Qiang “Jason” Sun, another agent of the Chinese Communist Government.
Liu and Ziburis have been in federal custody since March. Last year, when they were free, they succeeded in totally wrecking Chen’s CCP Virus sculpture.
Chen immediately vowed to rebuild. With the support of donations from those angered by the attack, including the Human Rights Foundation, the CCP Virus II Sculpture was created using the original molds as the guide to build a metal frame. Chen, welder Qien Yan, assistant Jonas Yuan, and David Jen spent seven months using rebar, sheet metal, cement, and paint to make the replica of the giant coronavirus molecule head with a Communist Hammer and Sickle attachment and the face and skull of Xi Jinping, President of China and leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Liberty Sculpture Park maintains the installation “is the largest depiction of Chairmen Xi in the world that firmly holds his leadership accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic’s worldwide impact and devastation.”
An event to unveil the CCP Virus II Sculpture will be held Sunday June 5, starting at 3 p.m. The park entrance is 37570 West Yermo Rd. Speakers will make presentations in English and Chinese. A period of silence to honor the victims of COVID-19 is a planned portion of the unveiling ceremony. The unveiling will be followed by a memorial observance of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre (estimated to begin 6 p.m. in front of the giant Six Four monument. Speakers for the memorial will be mostly Cantonese and Mandarin dialects.
Chen is a sculptor born in 1970 who fled Communist China three decades ago to avoid political persecution.
Closely visible from the northeast-bound lane of Interstate I-15, Liberty Sculpture Park is host to a number of statutes and displays, most by Chen. The overriding theme of the venue is freedom, freedom of the sort that Chen maintains is available in the United States and which is suppressed by the regime in his native country.
In 2017, Chen, who characterizes himself as equal parts sculptor and freedom activist, began erecting his statues in the Mojave Desert to celebrate the human spirit in its longing for freedom in the face of the oppression of tyranny, which in the modern world, according to Chen, is represented by communism.
Among the existing pieces at the park are a bust of Chief Crazy Horse, the inside of the headdress for which bears the phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death,” a statue of Chinese labor activist Li Wangyang; “Tank Man,” which shows the still-unidentified man with two shopping bags who stood down a tank on June 5, 1989 during protests that took place in Tiananmen Square that year; the number “64” or “Six Four,” commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests, which, according to unverified reports contradicted by the Chinese Communist Government, ended in the massacre of somewhere between 200 and 2,000 protesters; and the work “Liberate Hong Kong.”
Chen first came to prominence in 1991 when he was commissioned by the New Zealand government to create a 3-meter bronze statue of Edmund Hillary. In 2008, he created a 6.4 meters high replica of the Goddess of Democracy that stood in the Chinese University of Hong Kong until 23 December 2021.
Chen, who was born in Hangzhou, now resides in both New Zealand and the United States.
In 2011, Chen traveled to Syria to fight during the Syrian uprising alongside Free Syrian Army rebels, a faction of officers of the Syrian armed forces seeking to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.
The other sculptures at the park remain intact.