Tiananmen massacre statue barricaded at Hong Kong University

HONG KONG (AP) – A monument at a Hong Kong university that commemorated the 1989 Tiananmen massacre was barricaded by workers on Wednesday evening, sparking fears over the monument’s future as city authorities crack down dissent.

The 26-foot (7.92-meter) high Pillar of Shame, which depicts 50 torn and twisted bodies stacked on top of each other, was created by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt to symbolize those who lost their lives during the bloody military crackdown on pro-Democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

But the statue became a subject of controversy in October, with the university demanding that it be removed, even though the move drew backlash from activists and rights groups. Galschiøt, the creator of the statue, had offered to bring the statue back to Denmark on condition that he enjoys legal immunity from the National Security Act, but has so far failed.

Workers barricaded the Pillar of Shame monument at the University of Hong Kong on Wednesday evening. Drilling noises and loud clicking could be heard coming from the barricaded site, which was patrolled by guards.

In October, the university informed the former organizer of the candlelight vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, that it was due to remove the statue following “the latest risk assessment and advice legal “.

But the organization had said that it was dissolving and that it did not own the sculpture. The university was invited to speak to its creator instead.

Contacted by The Associated Press, sculptor Galschiøt said he was not aware of what was happening to the sculpture on Wednesday.

He had previously written to the university to assert his ownership of the monument, although his requests were largely ignored. He had also previously warned the university that he could seek damages if the statue was damaged during its removal.

The Shame Pillar dispute comes as Hong Kong authorities crack down on political dissent in the city, following the implementation of a national security law that appeared to target much of the pro-movement. democracy.

The Security Law, which prohibits secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion to interfere in the city’s affairs, was imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong after months of anti-government protests in 2019.

More than 100 prominent pro-democracy figures and activists have been arrested under the National Security Act, which has been criticized as undermining the freedoms promised in Hong Kong when it was handed over to China by the British.

The University of Hong Kong did not immediately respond to inquiries from the PA.

The Pillar of Shame monument stood for more than two decades and was initially located in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park before eventually being transferred to the University of Hong Kong on a long-term basis.

Every year on June 4, members of the former student union HKU, which organized the candlelight vigil, washed the statue to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre. The city, along with Macau, was previously the only places on Chinese soil where the commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown was allowed.

For the past two years, the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong had been banned by authorities, who cited public risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 24 activists were indicted for their role in the Tiananmen vigil last year, in which activists showed up and thousands followed, walking through park barricades to sing songs and light candles despite the police ban from the event.

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