The decision on the old statue was taken on the basis of an external legal opinion and a risk assessment for the best interests of the university, said the HKU in a statement, as groups and locations commemorating the June 4, 1989 crackdown in Beijing have become targets of Beijing’s draconian national security law.
Hong Kong has long been the only place in China where the commemoration of the Tiananmen events was tolerated. Each year, the students of theHKU cleaned the statue installed on their campus in 1997 to honor the victims of these events.
But Beijing left its authoritarian mark on the former British colony after the large and sometimes violent protests of 2019, imposing a national security law that criminalized virtually any form of dissent.
In October, those responsible for theHKU had ordered the removal of the eight-meter-high sculpture representing a tangle of 50 bodies deformed by pain, already citing legal risks, without specifying which ones.
the Pillar of shame, an eight-meter-high statue, was sheltered from view on Wednesday behind tarpaulins and barriers before being unbolted Thursday morning to be stored elsewhere, according to the university.
In its press release, the institution ensures that no one had obtained formal authorization to exhibit this statue and cites an ordinance dating from the colonial era to justify its removal.
This law includes the crime of sedition and has recently been increasingly used by authorities – alongside the new National Security Law – to suppress dissent.
While workers were busy around the statue in the night, the author of the work, the Dane Jens Galschiot, questioned by the
shocking that the university attack the sculpture, which, according to him, remains private property.
This sculpture is really expensive. So if they destroy her, then of course we’ll go after them, he added,
it is not fair.
Mr. Galschiot says he tried to contact the university with the help of lawyers and offered to resume his work. It also ensures that those responsible forHKU never warned him of the dismantling.
The removal of the statue was decried by exiled pro-democracy activists, still very followed by their many subscribers on social networks.
Nathan Law, a former elected pro-democracy refugee in the United Kingdom, assured that the statue will continue to live in people’s memory.
The #PillarOfShame has been removed, but memory survives. We must remember what happened on June 4, 1989, he tweeted.
Shame on the University of Hong Kong for destroying the history and collective memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You should be doomed to the pillar of shame, wrote Brian Leung, an exiled pro-democracy activist in the United States.
Wang Dan, one of the former student leaders of Tiananmen now living in the United States, was also outraged at the debacle, describing on Facebook
a despicable act to try to erase this chapter of history stained with blood.
Since Beijing’s grip, dissenting voices have gradually died down on Hong Kong campuses, once oases of freedom not subject to the censorship that permeates mainland Chinese faculties. Protests were banned, many student unions blacklisted, and new courses on the
national security established.
For 30 years, a candlelight vigil was held in Hong Kong for the anniversary of Tiananmen, bringing together tens of thousands of people. With its slogans for democracy, this meeting was a symbol of the freedom of expression enjoyed by the former British colony.
Authorities have banned the last two vigils, citing the pandemic and security issues as reasons. The main organizers were arrested for subversion, and a museum on June 4, 1989 was closed.
The resumption of control of the city also resulted in an electoral reform leading to a poll, last Sunday, reserved for candidates
patriots acquired from the Beijing regime for the local Legislative Council.