In 1989, Chinese college students led a protest in Tiananmen Square of Beijing. These students were killed by the Chinese military, who crushed them with their tanks. In 1997, Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt crafted a piece known as the “Pillar of Shame,” a 26-foot-tall pillar depicting the bodies of the students who were killed in the protest. This piece has long stood on the campus of the University of Hong Kong as a memorial of the Tiananmen Square massacre, as well as a subtle act of condemnation against the Chinese government. Its plaque features the inscription “The old cannot kill the young forever.”
However, in accordance with anti-subversion laws passed by Beijing in the past year, the statue was removed from its spot on HKU’s campus today. Early in the morning, the piece was surrounded by construction barriers, and sounds of demolition could be heard. The pillar was wrapped in opaque plastic, and according to the HKU Council, it will be kept in storage indefinitely. The council said that they decided to remove the statue “was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university.”
According to an anonymous witness who spoke to CNN, when students saw the empty spot where the statue once stood, many broke down in tears. Once news began to circulate, the sculptor, Galschiøt, took to his Twitter to call for protest.
The authorities in Hong Kong removed a statue, known as the “Pillar of Shame,” that memorialized those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The removal of the statue, a symbol of the territory’s pro-democracy movement, is the latest crackdown on dissent.https://t.co/m1mOh3Ijfa
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 23, 2021
“I’m totally shocked that Hong Kong University is currently destroying the pillar of shame. It is completely unreasonable and a self-immolation against private property in Hong Kong.”
“We encourage everyone to go out to Hong Kong University and document everything that happens with the sculpture,” he added in a statement. “We have done everything we can to tell the University of Hong Kong that we would very much like to pick up the sculpture and bring it to Denmark.”