The Statue that Glares Outside the Chinese Embassy
Jun. 14, 1989
WASHINGTON (AP) _ For a week and a half, Chinese students gathered in a tiny Washington park to glare at their country's embassy. The park is deserted now except for a 20- foot-tall Statue of Liberty, the inspiration of 8-year-old Chelsey Primdahl.
Over the weekend, 2,000 Chinese students gathered there. They are gone now - ''it is final exam time, you know,'' said the policeman on duty - but in their place, standing watch, is the statue, a reminder of the ''Goddess of Democracy'' that the People's Liberation Army smashed when Tiananmen Square was taken back.
Anyone looking outside the front windows of the embassy couldn't help but see it.
Chelsey, the daughter by an earlier marriage of Washingtonian James Primdahl, comes up from Richmond, Va., to spend every other weekend with her dad.
They go through the Sunday papers, map at hand, discussing what's going on in the world.
After she read about the Beijing crackdown in the Sunday papers on June 4, Chelsey was indignant.
''She said, 'What can we do?,''' Primdahl recalls, ''and I said, 'I don't know,' and she said 'Let's buy flowers and put one in the park for everyone who was killed.'''
The idea evolved. How about a statue made of chicken wire into which people could stick carnations? Finally, Primdahl scouted around and located a convention supply firm which owned a reproduction of the original, customarily used as an eyecatching decoration at conventions.
''I went home and told my wife I'd just bought a Statue of Liberty and it cost 2,700 bucks and she looked at me like, 'All right, there's the window ledge, go for it,''' says Primdahl.
But the National Park Service, which maintains the park, was quick to issue a permit and an expatriate Chinese artist worked through two nights to repair the statue and make a platform for it.
On Saturday Primdahl erected it. Six Chinese characters were painted in bright red on the plaque in Liberty's left hand. They translate, ''Fight for Freedom in Beijing.''
The park is circular, with a few benches, smaller than the infield of a baseball diamond. On Tuesday, in addition to the statue, it held 21 floral wreaths that bore the names of the weekend demonstrators' colleges - Florida State, Clemson, New York State at Buffalo, Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Texas at Austin. On one, a black banner read, ''Deeply mourn the people killed in Beijing.''
Chelsey hasn't seen her handiwork yet. She will Sunday, during her next visit to Washington. Her father says he's proud of her.