BERLIN The German city of Trier has decided to accept a towering statue of Karl Marx from China marking next year's 200th birthday of the founding father of communism, despite some suggestions it sends a bad signal to Beijing over its human rights record.
A debate about the statue of Marx with head held high and holding a book in one hand, has divided residents in Trier near the Luxembourg border. Supporters call it a welcome acknowledgement of the city as the philosopher's birthplace.
"This is clearly about us supporting the Chinese state ideology which is responsible for human rights abuses and we cannot allow that in our free society," local Free Democrat Tobias Schneider told Deutschlandfunk radio.
The city council voted in favour late on Monday with 42 members in favour and seven against.
"The decision, however, does not stipulate the size of the sculpture or where it will be placed," said the city council in a statement.
Chinese artist Wu Weishan has suggested the statue should be 4.9 metres tall atop a 1.4 metre high pedestal at the Porta Nigra, the city's most famous landmark and one of the biggest and best-preserved Roman gates north of the Alps.
A model of the statue was put on display there for two days at the start of March. The council said it would talk to the artist and the Chinese consulate in Frankfurt to decide who will pay the roughly 70,000 euros needed for the pedestal.
"That the biggest country in the world (in terms of population) is thinking about the little city of Trier is great. It is a big honour if people look at Trier," Andreas Ludwig, city councillor responsible for construction projects, told broadcaster SWR.
Marx has a mixed legacy among Germans, with some seeing the Cold War division of the country and erection of the Berlin Wall as a result of his ideas.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Ralph Boulton)