A replica of the Cheng Ho ship on the Semarang River near the Tay Kak Sie temple on Gang Lombok in the Pecinan Chinatown area of Semarang, Central Java, has been destroyed by the city’s Public Order Agency (Satpol PP).
The demolition, which started on Thursday, was ordered because the replica, which blocked about 15 meters of the 20 meter-wide river, was considered to be disturbing the waterflow.
Head of the Semarang City Satpol PP Endro Pudyo Martanto said that his team would need up to 10 days to completely disassemble the replica, which was built on the river in 2005.
To help smooth the demolition process, the City Water Resources Management Agency (PSDA) and Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry (ESDM) has deployed a team equipped with heavy machinery and with the help of an 80-strong team from the Satpol PP.
“We’re just helping with the demolition work. After the demolition the PSDA and ESDM will continue the normalization of the river,” Endro said over the weekend.
He said the debris resulting from the demolition process would be handed over to the Tay Kak Sie Foundation, which built the replica, to be recycled.
Semarang Mayor Hendrar Prihadi had previously assured reporters that the city administration would disassemble the replica of the Cheng Ho ship.
“We gave the Tay Kak Sie Foundation a deadline of August 30, 2014, to disassemble the replica themselves. They failed to do so, so we have agreed that the demolition will be conducted by the city administration,” Hendrar said.
The Rp 150 million (US$12,500) needed for the demolition work has been allocated from the amended city budget. The recommendation to disassemble the replica came from the city legislative council.
The replica was built on concrete pillars planted on the riverbed. It was built to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese navigator Cheng Ho’s expedition in Semarang in 2005, and was intended to be a permanent construction.
The move to demolish the replica has been the source of hot debate for the past nine years. Chinese cultural events have, since it was built, always been held on the dock near the replica, including a bedug (traditional drum) festival held during Ramadhan. Cheng Ho was a Chinese Muslim admiral of the Ming dynasty.
He is believed to have moored in Semarang in 1405.
The 600th anniversary of Cheng Ho’s arrival in Semarang was marked by great celebrations in August 2005.
Events included the opening of the Sam Poo Kong Temple in Gedung Batu, which features a statue of Cheng Ho, and the building of the replica near the Tay Kak Sie Temple on the Semarang River.
Meanwhile, a prominent leader of the Indonesian Chinese community in Semarang, Jongkie Tio, said he did not object to the demolition of the replica as it was considered to be blocking the river.
“It was hoped that the replica would become a cultural icon in the Pecinan area. But it turns out that the replica was causing harm by blocking the flow of water. In the name of the greater public interest, I agree with the demolition,” Jongkie was quoted by Antara as saying.
Without providing details, Jongkie claimed that the Semarang municipality administration had promised to find another spot for the replica.
Source: The Jakarta Post. 20 October 2014