The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has requested the now-disbanded organiser of Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Massacre vigil to remove the Pillar of Shame, an artwork which pays tribute to victims of Beijing’s bloody crackdown, from its campus.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and its liquidators Richard Tsoi and Elizabeth Tang said they received a letter from the university issued on Thursday, asking the defunct group to remove the statue by next Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.
According to the letter, if the Alliance fails to remove the sculpture before the deadline, “the Sculpture will be deemed abandoned and the University will not consider any future request from you in respect of the Sculpture, and the University will deal with the Sculpture at such time and in such manner as it thinks fit without further notice.”
The eight-metre tall harrowing monument to those killed by the military during the bloody crackdown has stood on the campus for 24 years.
The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.
Tsoi, who resigned as a member of the Alliance’s executive committee earlier this year, said that the university’s request was “unreasonable.”
“Institutes of higher education not only answer to [their] students and other stakeholders in the institute, universities also have their social mission and historical responsibility,” Tsoi wrote in a letter to HKU in response to their request.
“Continue letting the Pillar of Shame to stand in the HKU campus [demonstrates] exactly the University of Hong Kong’s persistence to values such as freedom and justice.”
Tsoi also asked HKU to clarify whether the university was planning to remove the sculpture, and the reasoning behind such a decision.
The now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China received the artwork in 1997 as a gift. It voted last month to disband after a crackdown under the national security law saw its leadership arrested and charged, and its property frozen.
The Danish artist who created the pillar, Jens Galschiøt, told HKFP that he was “shocked” by the news about the sculpture’s potential removal.
He remains the owner of the artwork despite lending it to the Alliance for a permanent exhibition and will assert his ownership, he said.
“It is really difficult to remove it. It is really not fair to remove it in a week while it’s been there for 24 years,” he said, adding that it would normally take two to three months – with cranes and containers – to properly move a sculpture of such size.
A hasty removal would destroy the sculpture, he said. “I can take them to court if they destroy it”
He added that HKU never contacted him…