Two more Hong Kong universities on Friday removed public monuments to the 1989 Tiananmen protests in Beijing, following on the heels of the dismantling of a sculpture marking victims of the crackdown at another university earlier this week.
A 6.4-metre tall replica of the Goddess of Democracy bronze statue, holding aloft a flame at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, was removed from a public piazza just before dawn. The university said in a statement that the “unauthorized statue” had been taken away.
The sculpture was modelled on a 10-metre white plaster and foam statue erected by students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 as a symbol of their resolve in pursuing liberty and democracy in China under Communist party rule.
Unlike mainland China, where Chinese authorities ban any memorials or public commemoration of June 4, Hong Kong had previously remained the only place on Chinese soil where such commemorations were permissible.
Hong Kong’s Lingnan University also took down a Tiananmen massacre wall relief sculpture, that also included a depiction of the Goddess of Democracy. The bas-relief includes images of a line of tanks halting before a lone protester known as “tank man”; and victims shot by Chinese troops being carried away.
The artist, Chen Weiming, who created both the statue and wall relief, told Reuters that he would sue the universities if there was any damage to his works.
A towering red picture of the Goddess of Democracy in the Lingnan University student union main hall had also been painted over in grey paint. Students responded by pasting a sheet of paper with the word “shameful” on the effaced image, which was quickly ripped off by security guards.
Lingnan University said in an email to Reuters that items that may pose “legal and safety risks” had been “cleared, or removed and stored appropriately.”
‘Freedom of Hong Kong is dead,’ says artist
Earlier this week, the University of Hong Kong dismantled and removed an eight-metre tall Pillar of Shame statue from its campus site that for more than two decades has commemorated pro-democracy protesters killed during the 1989 crackdown.
The disappearances of these symbolic monuments at three universities in quick succession mean there are now hardly any remaining public Tiananmen memorials in the region.
“Therefore, after the removal of this sculpture, I also thought that the freedom of Hong Kong is dead, and the rule of law in Hong Kong is also dead,” Chen, the artist, told Reuters.