The University of Hong Kong is demanding that the famous “Pillar of Shame” statue erected in honor of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre be removed, a letter written from UHK’s London-based legal team revealed on Friday.
The international law firm Mayer Brown LLP sent the letter to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – a pro-democracy organization – while acting on behalf of the university, CNN reported. The firm’s letter stated that the sculpture must be removed “before 5 pm on 13 October 2021.” If it is not removed, the “Pillar of Shame” will be considered “abandoned” and handled in “such a manner” that UHK deems appropriate.
According to the BBC, the university’s decision was “based on the latest risk assessment and legal advice.” The school did not elaborate on its explanation, including whether or not the Chinese Communist Party may have pressured their decision.
Hong Kong-based journalist Ezra Cheung posted a photo of the sculpture on Twitter.
Created by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt, the “Pillar of Shame” portrays numerous torn and twisted bodies in acknowledgment of the Chinese communist regime’s brutal and deadly crackdown on pro-democracy college protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The statue has been on display at UHK for 24 years.
“It is really not fair to remove it in a week while it’s been there for 24 years,” Galschiøt told Hong Kong Free Press. He feared the sculpture could be damaged if it is moved too rapidly.
According to Galschiøt’s website, the sculpture is part of a series that has been erected in Hong Kong, Mexico and Brazil. They serve as “a warning and a reminder to people of a shameful event which must never reoccur.”
In 1997, Galschiøt gave the statue to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China as a gift. The Alliance was formed during the Tiananmen Square protests, but after multiple top members were arrested under Hong Kong’s national security law, remaining members decided to dissolve the group last month.
Last week, Galschiøt told CNN that he may take “legal action” if the “Pillar of Shame” is taken down.
“They’ve given them five days to remove the sculpture, it’s not possible. A lot of students are in jail, this is really crazy and unfair. I had an agreement with the university for the permanent exhibition of this sculpture,” Galschiøt explained.
“This is a big statement from the Chinese government if they remove it. It’s the only monument remembering the Tiananmen crackdown, morally it’s a big problem.”