Hong Kong erases Tiananmen Square massacre

A macabre sculpture rises from a courtyard at the University of Hong Kong. It depicts dozens of contorted human bodies in agony, some wit...


A macabre sculpture rises from a courtyard at the University of Hong Kong. It depicts dozens of contorted human bodies in agony, some with mouths open in silent cries, some skeletal and seemingly motionless. The public university demanded that this work of art be removed by 5 p.m. Wednesday (5 a.m. Eastern in the US) – an ultimatum Hong Kongers find more horrific than the statue’s gruesome presence.

The sculpture “The Pillar of Shame” commemorates the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Its creator, Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, calls the work “an open accusation of the regime of the old in Beijing” and ” litmus test of the authorities’ desire to respect human rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong ”. The Chinese Communist Party has “already erased the memory of what happened in Tiananmen inside China, and now they will do the same in Hong Kong,” Galschiøt said.

In a letter last week, attorneys for the university said that if “The Pillar of Shame” was not passed on time, “the sculpture will be considered abandoned” and “the university will process the sculpture to at such time and in such manner as it deems appropriate without further notice.

Beijing last year imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that criminalizes dissent, so it will be difficult to find a new local forum willing to post “The Pillar of Shame”, especially in the short term, Mr. Galschiøt. He adds that his fiber cement sculpture has already needed repairs and “is probably a bit fragile.” He worries that “if the people at a construction company get out of a crane and a truck and try to put it away, then they’ll destroy it, I think. Maybe they want to destroy it, who knows.

Also troubling to Mr Galschiøt is that the Mayer Brown law firm wrote the ultimatum letter on behalf of the university. “They are linked to an attack on art, an attack on democracy in Hong Kong,” says the artist, and they “have to take responsibility for it”. Mayer Brown describes itself as “a global service provider with associated legal practices that are separate entities”. The majority of its lawyers are in the United States

“We were asked to provide a specific service on a real estate issue for our long-time client, the University of Hong Kong,” says Lisa Sachdev, spokesperson for the firm. Mayer Brown “does not have a head office” and is “a global company,” she said. “Our role as external counsel is to help our clients understand and comply with applicable law. Our legal advice is not intended to be commentary on current or historical events. ”

The action against “The Pillar of Shame” is the latest in a series aimed at purging the historic events of Tiananmen Square from the collective memory of Hong Kong. For decades, thousands of people have gathered in Victoria Park on June 4, the anniversary of the massacre, for a solemn vigil organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in support of China’s democratic patriotic movements. But since 2020, Hong Kong police have refused to issue a permit for the event and have warned anyone who does show up could face criminal charges. Police gathered outside Victoria Park this year, and photos showed the once crowded and eerily vacant expanse.

Authorities also closed the Hong Kong Alliance June 4 Museum. The government has cited Covid restrictions and a lack of a valid license, but it’s clear the goal is removal. In September, police raided the museum, seized property and charged the Hong Kong Alliance and three of its leaders with inciting subversion under the National Security Act. President Lee Cheuk-yan and Vice-Presidents Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung now face life in prison if found guilty. Under duress, the Hong Kong Alliance dissolved at the end of last month.

Then take a look at what’s going on in Hong Kong’s classrooms, libraries, and history texts. The South China Morning Post reported this year that some teachers canceled their annual classes on the Tiananmen Square massacre, fearing that he would be targeted under the National Security Law.

“In response to requests from the SCMP on whether teachers are allowed to teach lessons about the crackdown,” a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Bureau of Education “said it was the responsibility of schools to put implementing national security education under the National Security Act, “the newspaper reported. . The Hong Kong authorities are striving to impose a “patriotic education” curriculum on the city’s schools, and it is hard to imagine that the propagandists would allow a truthful account of the Communist Party massacre.

Mr. Lee from the Hong Kong Alliance told me in May 2020 that ‘if you compare what happened in 1989 and now it is the same’ and that ‘now we are faced with this regime, just as the Chinese people faced the regime back. in 89. As the Hong Kong authorities act to erase all monuments and memorials honoring the martyrs of 1989, it is up to the West to remember the victims of the Communist Party, past and present.

Ms. Melchior is an editorial page editor for the Journal.

Journal Editorial Report: Paul Gigot interviews Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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