Kiwi back on the Syrian front line

By Portia Mao

Kiwi Weiming Chen fights with Syrian rebels.
Kiwi Weiming Chen fights with Syrian rebels.

A New Zealander fighting in Syria is thought to have moved back to the front line of the conflict.

Chinese-born Weiming Chen, who sculpted several well known works including a statue of Sir Edmund Hillary at Orewa, has joined Syrian rebels resisting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Chen's wife Anne has had only brief contact with him but this week said he had fired his weapon in combat.

"I have sent him more than 10 emails and only got four short replies so far.

"He said he was fine and safe. He told me not to worry."

The last email was sent on December 30 when the internet was not stable.

Anne said she believed he was still in Syria and had unconfirmed reports he was heading to Damascus.

Chinese media had provided details.

"I learned from his seventh letter that he fired his gun but didn't hit anyone. He had never touched a gun before he went to Syria. He said in his letter from the front line that he did have short training to use a gun."

The Chens moved to New Zealand in 1988 and Weiming has exhibited widely in the United States. Anne has remained in New Zealand to care for her parents. Their eldest son is working in Japan and two other two sons are studying in the US.

She said Chen was a romantic person who had been swept up in the Syrian cause and would have struggled to decide between his family and joining the conflict.

She said she tried her best to stop him going but he was determined.

"He has a very strong personality and is the sort of man who can survive, even if he was abandoned in a desert. It is because he has faith."

Anne emailed Weiming on December 28, his birthday, noting their 30 years together.

"A Chinese lawyer in New York and a Chinese professor from Columbia University plan to join Weiming in Syria. "It's good Weiming could encourage some Chinese people to be concerned about the progress of democracy and freedom of the Arabian world."

- Herald on Sunday

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