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Confucius statue removed in Beijing

BEIJING, April 23 (UPI) -- A 31-foot bronze statue of Confucius recently erected on Beijing's Tiananmen Square has mysteriously vanished without explanation.

The philosopher's statue, which was put up in front of the National Museum with great ceremony in January, disappeared before dawn Thursday, The New York Times reported.

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Museum spokesman Tian Shanting said he did not know what happened, and sculptor Wu Weishan and city officials would not comment. Some said it had been moved inside the museum.

The statue seemed to symbolize the Chinese Communist Party's turnaround on Confucianism, which was brutally suppressed during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. In recent years, China has opened Confucius Institutes around the world.

Chen Lai, a Confucius scholar at Tsinghua University, speculated the Central Party opposed having the statue on the square.

Kong Weidong of the International Confucius Descendants Reunion Association, a 75th-generation descendant, said party "leftists" were behind the removal.

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