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

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

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

The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident, which is a highly sensitive topic in China.

Its removal comes as Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.

The university had initially ordered the removal of the statue – called the Pillar of Shame – in October.

“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 on Thursday.

“The university is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue.”

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

Construction workers worked overnight behind plastic barriers to dismantle the 8m (26ft) copper statue. Security guards blocked reporters from approaching and tried to stop them from filming.

The BBC’s Grace Tsoi, who was at the scene, said there was sound of cracking and drilling, but no one could see what was happening.

The university said it would put the statue, which has been on display at the university’s campus for 24 years, into storage.

The Danish sculptor behind the statue said its removal was “really brutal”.

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“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,” Jens Galschiot told the BBC’s Newshour programme.

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

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

The incident is considered highly politically sensitive in the mainland and authorities ban even oblique references to the events of June 4.

Hong Kong was one of the very few places in China that allowed public commemoration. However, in 2020, Hong Kong authorities banned vigil for the first time in 30 years, citing Covid restrictions.

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Activists accused officials of bowing to pressure from Beijing to muzzle pro-democracy expression.

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

Earlier this month, media tycoon Jimmy Lai also received 13 months in prison for participating in the same vigil.

It comes as the Chinese government has clamped down hard in Hong Kong, introducing a strict national security law last year.

The law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

 

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