It was called the “Pillar of Shame” and paid homage since 20 years to the victims of the Tiananmen repression . A statue was removed on Thursday from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) “on the basis of an external legal opinion and a risk assessment for the best interests of the university,” HKU said in a statement.
Groups and places commemorating the repression of June 4 648 in Beijing have become the target of the draconian national security law imposed by China . Every year, HKU students cleaned the statue installed on their campus in 1989 to honor the victims of these events. Since the seizure of Beijing, dissenting voices have gradually faded on the campuses of Hong Kong, once oases of freedom not subject to the censorship that permeates the faculties of mainland China. Demonstrations have been banned, many student unions blacklisted, and new “national security” courses introduced.
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The crime of sedition once again invoked
Last October, HKU officials ordered the removal of the eight-meter-high sculpture representing a tangle of 50 bodies distorted by pain, already evoking legal risks, without specifying which ones. In its press release this Thursday, 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 withdrawal. This law includes the crime of sedition and has recently been increasingly used by authorities – alongside the new National Security Law – to suppress dissent.
The author of the work, the Dane Jens Galschiot, found it “strange” and “shocking” that the university is attacking the sculpture, which, according to him, remains private property. “This sculpture is really expensive. So if they destroy it, then of course we’re going to pursue them, ”he added,“ that’s not fair. ”
“Shame on the University of Hong Kong”
The removal of the statue has been decried by pro activists democracy exiles, still very followed by their many subscribers on social networks. Nathan Law, a former pro-democracy elected official refugee in the UK, tweeted: “The #PillarOfShame has been withdrawn, but memory survives. We must remember what happened on June 4th 1989 ”.
“Shame on the University of Hong Kong for destroying the history and collective memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You should be condemned to the pillar of shame, ”wrote Brian Leung, a pro-democracy activist exiled in the United States. Wang Dan, one of the former student leaders of Tiananmen now living in the United States, was also outraged by the debunking, describing on Facebook “a despicable act in an attempt to erase this bloodstained chapter of history. “.