Vietnam old artist forced to destroy 'violence-provoking' statues

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Pham Chung, 73, sits in his garden in Tay Ninh Province. The garden has recently attracted attention for its statues depicting human faces suffering.

An elderly citizen in the southeastern province of Tay Ninh was asked to demolish statues in his garden after local authorities accused the art works of "provoking violence."

Pham Chung, 73, of Ho Chi Minh City, bought the 1,000-square-meter land plot in Tay Ninh 11 years ago and then turned it into a garden of his own to worship his departed mother.

He built two concrete fake graves and many statues, mostly depicting human faces, in the fenceless garden, which is located at a much-traveled crossroads in Long Hai Hamlet, Truong Tay Commune, Hoa Thanh District.

The garden has been there for years but it wasn't until last month that local residents reported to local authorities that they felt "terrified" each time they passed the garden, because it looked like scene from a horror movie, they said.

On Monday (September 30), representatives from Tay Ninh's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Hoa Thanh District People's Committee inspected the garden.

Authorities then asked Chung to demolish some statues they said could provoke violence because they depict strange and bloody (painted red) human faces with strained expressions on their faces. One head has a knife stabbed through it.

According to authorities, the recommendation was made based on a government decree that bans public activities that provoke violence, superstition and debauchery.

They said Chung did not erect fences around his garden; therefore his art works were seen by the public and he must be responsible for them.

Chung said he would demolish the two fake graves and some statues, which he said he had created to represent the "victims of crimes" on earth.

"I already put a board on each statue, explaining that it illustrates a victim of robbery, murder, road accident, suicide, drugs, a jealous acid attack, or rape.

"I just want to leave [the statues] as a legacy for my descendants."

Chung also said that making statues of dead people's faces is his hobby, and questioned why other people criticized his personal hobby.

"It's saddening that I had to demolish or repaint some statues," he told Vietweek.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, the police chief of Long Hai Hamlet, told online newspaper VnExpress that Chung had pledged to demolish all the scary statues in his garden in two months' time.

"His act [of making statues] has badly affected people's mind, caused public disorder and damaged the good looks of the whole residential area," Phong said.

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