Hong Kong: The last monument to the Tiananmen massacre was removed

HONG KONG, (AP) -- The monument at a Hong Kong University that marked the most prominent public memorial to the Tiananmen Square massacre in Chinese soil was taken down early Thursday. This effectively ended the city's last public place of commemoration for the 1989 crackdown.

Hong Kong: The last monument to the Tiananmen massacre was removed


 

Some at the University of Hong Kong felt the move was a reflection of the loss of relative freedoms compared to mainland China.

Jens Galschioet, a Danish sculptor, created the 8-meter (26-foot-tall) Pillar of Shame to represent the loss of life during the military crackdown against pro-democracy protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Galschioet stated that the monument's removal was a signal to students that the (Hong Kong), democracy movement is over and that free speech in Hong Kong is now over.

According to the university, it requested that the sculpture be moved from its campus, where it had stood for over two decades, because it could pose legal risks.

It stated that no party had ever received approval from the university to display it on campus and that the university was free to take the appropriate steps to deal with it.

To commemorate the massacre, students from the now-defunct student association would wash the statue each year on June 4. Macao and the city were the only places in China where the commemoration of the crackdown was allowed.

Two consecutive years of annual Tiananmen candlelight Vigils have been banned by authorities. A private museum that documented the crackdown was also closed down. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China was the group that organised the annual vigil. It also ran the museum. Some of its key members are now behind bars.

The sculpture was dismantled days after pro-Beijing candidate won a landslide victory at the Hong Kong legislative election. This was due to amendments to the election laws that allow the vetting and screening of candidates in order to make sure they are loyal "patriots".

Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, traveled to Beijing this week in order to report on developments in the semiautonomous Chinese city. Beijing imposed a broad national security law which appeared to target many of the pro-democracy movement that had been affected by mass protests in 2019.

In October, the Pillar of Shame became a topic after activists and rights groups opposed a university request that it be removed. Galschioet offered to return it to Denmark if he was not prosecuted under the national safety law. However, this has not been achieved.

Galschioet stated that he was promised a place for the sculpture in a park near the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as places in Norway, Canada, and Taiwan.

He likened the act of removing the sculpture to driving a tank through Arlington Cemetery, a burial ground for American war vets.

"Grave desecration in China is frowned upon, but that's exactly what it is." He said that it is almost a sacred monument." It is a monument for the dead.

Jeppe Kofod, Danish Foreign Minister, stated that its removal was another worrying development for Hong Kong.

"The Danish government can't decide what art universities in other countries will display. For me and the government, however, the right of all citizens to peacefully communicate through speech, art, or any other means is a fundamental right. He said that this is also true for Hong Kong.

Billy Kwok, University of Hong Kong student, stated that the Pillar of Shame was treated as part of the university and by many students who studied there.

He said, "It's the symbol that whether (there is still?) freedom of speech in Hong Kong."

Morgan Chan, an employee of the university, stated that the removal of the pillar "does not mean history will be erased and people won't learn anything about it."

Wang Luyao, a student had a mixed reaction.

Wang stated that Wang's understanding of the Pillar Of Shame may not be as deep for him because he is from mainland China. It is also not as significant to him as it is for students from Hong Kong.

It's like a landmark that provides an approach to understanding. It should be considered a landmark by the University of Hong Kong.

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