Danish artist shocked as Hong Kong authorities remove his iconic ‘Pillar of Shame’ statue 

Around the “Pillar of Shame,” a fence has been placed and security guards have been posted to keep people away from the demolition of the statue. Photo: Peter Parks / Ritzau Scanpix

The Hong Kong government ruled that the statue violated a new security law, but ignored the Danish artist Jens Galschiøt’s desire to bring the statue home. Now workers have begun to remove part of the eight-meter-high sculpture that has stood at the University of Hong Kong since 1997, TV2 writes.

The eight-meter-high statue, depicting twisted bodies stacked on top of each other, is a memorial to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, in which hundreds of proponents of democracy were killed.

“I’m very shocked about what’s going on. It is a sculpture that means a lot to the citizens of Hong Kong, and it is one I am most proud to have been allowed to create,” Jens Galschiøt says to TV2. “It’s a strong signal to send, and I find it incredibly “non-Hong Kong,” the artist adds.

The work removing the sculpture reportedly started on 22 December when a fence and cover were placed around the statue. A large group of security people shielded curious eyes and journalists from seeing what was going on inside behind.

On Twitter, however, a user posted a video saying “whole area around the #PillarOfShame in #HKU has been covered up by white plastic sheets and surrounded by yellow boards. Lots of noises can be heard but security guards have been driving me away and asking me not to film while refusing to answer what’s going on.” In the video people in vests and security helmets can be seen working while sounds of tools can be heard. 

“It is not possible to just resemble the statue and take it down. And everything indicates that they are destroying it, and of course, I can not accept that. It is my property,” Jens Galschiøt says.

Already back in October, Hong Kong University was ordered to remove the statue, and since then Jens Galschiøt approached the authorities several times to be allowed to take it home at his own expense. But without an answer.

“I was told that it was in breach of the security legislation passed last year, and I accepted that. But even though my lawyers have contacted them again and again, nothing has happened,” he says.

Regardless of whether the “Pillar of Shame” has been definitively destroyed or not, Jens Galschiøt intends to go to court. For him, it’s not just about getting any leftovers out of the country. It is also about the principle:

“This can end up being a big issue, also internationally. It’s not just any statue they’ve removed. It is a symbol and I will fight this case on behalf of the people of Hong Kong. I have huge sympathy for their fight,” he says.

“At the same time, there is also a battle over whether the system in Hong Kong still works. They have laws over there that guarantee private property, and in this case, they’ve destroyed my property, and that’s unacceptable,” Jens Galschiøt notes. 

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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