University Of Hong Kong Removes Statue Dedicated To Victims Of Tiananmen Square Massacre
The "Pillar of Shame" statue stands at the Hong Kong University campus on October 15, 2021 in Hong Kong, China.
Louise Delmotte/Getty Images

Late into the night on Wednesday, around 11p.m. local time, security staff at the University of Hong Kong surrounded a statue dedicated to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre and obscured it with curtains and plastic barriers.

Those in the area could hear the sounds of construction but were not told what was going on. Xinqi Su, Hong Kong correspondent for the Agence France-Presse, said the Pillar of Shame statute was covered up, and she was told not to film. She also said security guards tried to drive her away and wouldn’t tell her what was happening.

“A cargo container is placed on the ground outside a cafeteria next to the #PillarOfShame. All the ways around the Pillar have been guarded and blocked and some students said windows facing the Pillar are boarded. The arrangements seem aiming to make sure no image can be captured,” Su reported.

Su followed up by saying security was so tight around the statue that a food deliverer wasn’t allowed in to complete his job. The HKU council reportedly agreed earlier that day to remove the statue, Su reported.

The Associated Press reported that the statue was removed just “days after pro-Beijing candidates scored a landslide victory in the Hong Kong legislative elections, after amendments in election laws allowed the vetting of all candidates to ensure that they are ‘patriots’ loyal to Beijing.”

“The removal also happened in the same week that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam traveled to Beijing to report on developments in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, where authorities have silenced dissent following the implementation of a sweeping national security law that appeared to target much of the pro-democracy movement following mass protests in 2019,” the outlet continued.

The 26-foot-tall Pillar of Shame “depicts 50 torn and twisted bodies piled on top of each other, was made by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt to symbolize the lives lost during the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989,” the AP reported.

In October, the university started demanding it be removed, against the wishes of activists and rights groups. The statue’s creator told the university he would take the statue back to Denmark if he was granted legal immunity to not be persecuted under Hong Kong’s national security law that persecutes those who dissent against Chinese oppression. So far, Galschiøt has been unsuccessful in reclaiming his art.

“No party has ever obtained any approval from the university to display the statue on campus, and the university has the right to take appropriate actions to handle it at any time,” HKU said in a statement released Thursday. “Latest legal advice given to the university cautioned that the continued display of the statue would pose legal risks to the university based on the Crimes Ordinance enacted under the Hong Kong colonial government.”

The university plans to put the statue in storage until it can be moved.

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