Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s oldest university yesterday launched an overnight operation to dismantle a statue commemorating those killed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the latest blow to academic freedom as China cracks down.
The 8-meter (26-foot) “pillar of shame” by Jens Galschiø has been sitting on the campus of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) since 1997, when the former British colony was returned to China. The sculpture, with 50 distressed faces and tortured bodies piled up, commemorates a democratic protester who was killed by Chinese troops around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Its presence is a clear indication of Hong Kong’s freedom compared to mainland China, where events at Tiananmen are severely censored. .. But Beijing is now remodeling Hong Kong with its own authoritarian image after the democratic protests two years ago and commemorating Tiananmen became virtually illegal. In October, HKU officials ordered the removal of the sculpture because of new but unspecified legal risks. They fulfilled that promise early yesterday morning.
Overnight sound association
According to an AFP reporter at the scene, university officials used floor-to-ceiling sheets and plastic barriers to protect the statue from visibility. Security guards blocked journalists from approaching and tried to stop shooting media. Workers in helmets could see a crane using a crane to steer a large chunk of plastic-wrapped sculpture toward a nearby container.
HKU confirmed that the statue was removed and stored after the surgery was completed. “The decision on the dilapidated statue was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interests of the university,” the university said. The statement said that no political party had ever been approved to display the statue, and that it cited colonial criminal ordinances in justifying its removal. The law includes sedition charges and is increasingly being rolled out by authorities to criminalize the opposition, along with the new National Security Act imposed by Beijing.
Garskiot told AFP that it was “strange” and “shocking” for the university to move the statue, which is his private property. “This is a really expensive sculpture, so if they destroy it, of course we will sue them,” he added. “It’s not fair.”
Garskiot said he offered to retrieve the statue and, with the help of a lawyer, tried various ways to contact the university. HKU officials did not contact or warn him about actions that began late Wednesday, he said. The artist sent an email to the supporters urging them to “document everything that happens in the sculpture.” “We did everything we could tell (HKU) that we wanted to pick up the sculpture and bring it to Denmark,” he said.
Hong Kong was once the only place in China where a large amount of Tiananmen’s memory was still tolerated. For 30 years, the city’s annual June 4th Candlelight Vigil will attract tens of thousands of people. With the slogan of democracy and the end of China’s one-party rule, it has become a symbol of the political freedom that Hong Kong enjoys. But that era is over. Authorities banned the last two rallies because of both the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns. They charged the leaders of the alert organization with destruction (national security crime) and closed the Tiananmen Museum, which was run by the group. Dozens of activists who attended the banned Tiananmen rallies in both 2020 and 2021 have been charged with unlawful rallies.
With numerous opponents imprisoned or fled abroad, authorities have also embarked on a mission to rewrite history and make the city more “patriotic.” -AFP
https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/hk-university-dismantles-tiananmen-square-statue/ The University of Hong Kong dismantles the statue of Tiananmen Square