Kin Cheung / AP
A 26-meter-tall sculpture commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre will be removed from the campus of the University of Hong Kong in what activists see as the latest sign of repression of freedom from Beijing into territory.
The university set a deadline Wednesday for the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements, a group of activists who were forced to disband last month to demolish the memorial. Representatives of the already missing group have demanded more time, due to a typhoon that has hit the territory in recent days, but it is not clear whether the extension will be granted. As of Wednesday evening local time, the memorial appears to remain at the university.
In a letter, insisted the university that if the sculpture is not removed by 5 pm on October 13, “it will be considered abandoned.”
Speaking this year at a June 4 ceremony in which students wash the sculpture, a student activist told reporters“We hope to defend the historical truth given that our freedom of speech is diminishing.”
The structure, known as the Pillar of Shame, is the work of Danish artist Jens Galschiot. Discovered in 1997, he describes about 50 disturbed and intertwined bodies rising from the ground into a narrow pyramid. It is said to be the only major memorial to the massacre still standing on Chinese soil. On June 4, 1989, People’s Liberation Army soldiers brutally purged pro-democracy protesters from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the number of killed vary from HUNDREDS to thousandswith
Galschiot, the artist, has called the removal of the sculpture an “attack on art”. He says the work was technically with loans not specified by him. He says it is discussing with Danish politicians the opportunity to bring him back to his country. He also has said that could end up somewhere else in Europe, Taiwan or the United States.
“It will take a long time to move the sculpture,” he said said in a statement Saturday. “It is an extremely valuable work of art, which after 24 years is probably a bit fragile. Therefore there is a high possibility that the work of art will suffer irreparable damage if treated by someone other than experts in the treatment of art.” He warned the university that it “risks having a claim for compensation” if the artwork is damaged.
In its legal search to remove the works of art, the university registered the law firm Mayer Brown. Tha firma Hong Kong Free Press that was being held “as external advice [to] help our clients understand and respect the current law “.
“We were asked to provide a specific service on a real estate issue for our long-term client, the University of Hong Kong,” the firm said. “Our legal advice is not intended to comment on current or historical events.”
Order to overthrow The sculpture follows a series of moves from Beijing to take stronger control of Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed over to China in 1997 under an agreement aimed at securing that the territory would enjoy a degree of autonomy and that fundamental freedoms would be guaranteed.
Last year, a series of mass protests in Hong Kong erupted over a proposed law to extradite residents to mainland China for certain high-level criminal cases. The law went into effect anyway. Beijing has also used the tough new national security law to close disputes in the territory and has sought to purge pro-democracy lawmakers from the Hong Kong legislature.
A museum documenting the Tiananmen Square massacre has also been closed and an annual vigil in Hong Kong to remember the June 4 victims has been stopped and its organizers arrested.
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