Pillar of Shame: Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square statue removed

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  • Tiananmen Square protests of 1989

Image source, ReutersImage caption, Construction workers worked overnight to remove the statue

A famous statue at the University of Hong Kong commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre has been removed.

Construction workers worked overnight behind plastic barriers to dismantle the 8m (26ft) copper statue.

The statue, called the Pillar of Shame, shows piled-up corpses to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

The university ordered its removal in October, and said officials had decided on Wednesday to take it down.

"The decision on the aged statue was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university," it said in a statement.

It added: "The university is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue."

The artwork – which features dozens of twisted bodies and anguished faces – was one of Hong Kong's few remaining public memorials to the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

China forbids any public recognition of the massacre. Beijing has recently moved to silence opposition to its rule in Hong Kong.

The Pillar of Shame, by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot, has been on display at the university's campus for 24 years.

Mr Galschiot said removing the statue was "really brutal" and likened it to the destruction of gravestones.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, The Pillar of Shame stood at the university for 24 years (file photo)

"This is a sculpture about dead people and [to] remember the dead people in Beijing in '89. So when you destroy that in this way then it's like going to a graveyard and destroying all the gravestones," he told the BBC's Newshour programme.

Mr Galschiot said he would consider suing the authorities and demand compensation.

The first signs the statue was being taken down came late on Wednesday night, when university officials fenced off the area with plastic sheeting.

Security guards blocked reporters from approaching and tried to stop them from filming.

The university said it would put the statue in storage.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of demonstrators were killed by Chinese troops in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989.

Tiananmen is still a heavily censored topic in modern China. The anniversary was marked annually in Hong Kong until it was banned by authorities in 2020, citing Covid measures.

In October, nine pro-democracy activists were sentenced to between six and 10 months in prison for taking part in the banned 2020 vigil.

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Tiananmen's tank man: The image that China forgot

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