Two more Hong Kong universities remove massacre-related memorials from public display

Authorities at two more universities in Hong Kong on Friday removed memorials to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the massacre of civilians that ended them, following the removal of the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture from the University of Hong Kong.

Authorities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) took down a 6.4 meter bronze replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” figure used by students calling for democracy and the rule of law on Tiananmen Square in the spring and early summer of 1989.

Meanwhile, Lingnan University removed or painted over two public art works commemorating the victims of the massacre.

Students and alumni at CUHK responded by leaving mourning offerings of white flowers and candles where the statue once stood, playing a cover of the protest-related song “Bloodstained Glory” by Cantopop diva Anita Mui.

The removal of public memorials to the Tiananmen massacre comes amid a citywide crackdown on public dissent and political opposition under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

The CUHK statue, created by New Zealand artist Chen Weiming, had been on display at CUHK for 11 years after police removed it from the Times Square shopping mall in Causeway bay in May 2010.

Police eventually released the statue amid a public outcry, and it was taken by the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to CUHK.

The now-disbanded student union — which was derecognized by the university earlier this year — said at the time that the statue “also represents our pursuit of a free and democratic society.”

Then union president Eric Lai said in a 2010 speech: “If anyone tries to remove the Goddess of Democracy statue, we call on the public to come to CUHK to defend it.”

But the statue disappeared overnight, with scant opportunity for defending it, within hours of the removal of the “Pillar of Shame” from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Chen told Reuters on Friday: “Since the Chinese communists implemented the national security law in Hong Kong, they have eradicated the freedom of press, of assembly and the freedom of expression.”

Lai said he wasn’t surprised by the move.

“Now that HKU has quietly moved the Pillar of Shame, other universities are following suit, and removing any memorials to June 4, 1989 from their campuses,” he told RFA. “There has been no let-up in the ‘plague-cleansing’ activities of the Hong Kong government [when it comes to dissent],” he said.

Former CUHK vice chancellor Joseph Sung said universities should strive to be inclusive spaces that allow the freedom to express many different opinions.

“I think university education should be inclusive, and that different ideas and theories should be allowed to bloom like a hundred flowers,” Sung told RFA on Friday.

“The insistence that the statue of the goddess of democracy be removed shows that there is no room for different ideas or opinions,” he said.

Like HKU on Thursday, CUHK authorities said it had never given permission for the statue to be displayed on campus, and that it was placed there by two now-disbanded organizations.

“Now that the national security law is in place, I can’t see any university that will be willing to show true independence on its campus, or to cherish pluralism, or protect freedom of speech,” Lai said.

“I also don’t expect to see universities take the interests of their students as a starting point [any more],” he said. “On the contrary; it seems as if they are collaborating with the government in this ‘clean-up’ operation, and even in rewriting history.”

Lingnan University said it had removed items from its campus that could pose “legal and safety risks.”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.



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