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West Valley City • Years in the making and the center of controversy, the Chinese Heritage Gate was officially unveiled Saturday at a ceremony attended by local and Taiwanese officials.

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder described the ornate gate as one-of-a-kind and a wonderful gift from sister city Nantou, Taiwan, to the hundreds of people at the event at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South.

"It's been a wonderful friendship across the ocean," Winder said of the link between West Valley City and Nantou.

Lee Chao-Ching, the former mayor of Nantou who contributed $10,000 toward the gate, said the structure is "magnificent."

"It strengthens the two cities' relationship," said Lee, who now is the magistrate of Nantou County.

The 48-foot-long structure, which was built in Taiwan and reassembled after being shipped in pieces to Utah, sits on an elevated plaza and features a center gate flanked by two smaller side gates. The gate was funded was funded with $150,000 from West Valley City, $140,000 from private donors and the $10,000 from Lee.

The project symbolizes West Valley's friendship with Nantou and commemorates the local Asian community but has become a point of contention for some. Angry donors have questioned whether their donations were mishandled by Terrence Chen, chairman of the Chinese Heritage Foundation of Utah, and some allege the project is so closely linked to Taiwan that it does not represent the entire Chinese community.

The Salt Lake County Attorney's Office has confirmed that it is investigating Chen's activities, and the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing has said it is looking into the foundation, which has not filed an application for a charitable solicitation permit, which is required by law.

Chen has denied any wrongdoing. Winder told The Tribune on Saturday that any big project is going to generate controversy.

"We think at the end of the day there will be far more people who are thrilled with the gate than disgruntled," Winder said.

The gate drew praise from many in the crowd.

"It's beautiful," said Jolynne Alger, who has two daughters in a Chinese immersion program at Eastlake Elementary School in South Jordan.

She said the gate gives her children more exposure to the Chinese culture. The girls, 8-year-old Tori and 6-year-old Sadie, also got a chance to practice their Mandarin by chatting with two members of the Taiwanese delegation.

Saturday's event included dancing and performances by the local Chinese orchestra and choir. In addition, two exhibits showcasing art from Taiwan have opened at the center as part of the celebration.

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

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