A bronze statue of the late Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has been removed from the heart of Causeway Bay, after the Times Square shopping mall threatened organisers with legal action.

Liu Xiaobo statue leung kwok-hung, bull tsang, koo sze-yiu
Statue of Liu Xiaobo in Times Square, Hong Kong, with ex-lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung (left), former lawmaker Bull Tsang (right), activist Koo Sze-yiu (second right) and supporters. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Liu was a Chinese poet who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. He was jailed for 11 years a year earlier for inciting “subversion of state power,” after he penned Charter ’08 – a manifesto urging democratic reform. He died last July after battling liver cancer while on medical parole, making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since 1938. His wife, Liu Xia, remains under de facto house arrest.

Moment of silence 

The League of Social Democrats and the Hong Kong Alliance erected the statue last Tuesday in the hope that it would remain until July 13 – the first anniversary of the poet’s death. It was donated by a person who did not want to be identified.

Liu Xiaobo statue Times Square
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

But lawyers for the popular Hong Kong shopping centre sent a letter to the activists last Friday threatening legal action if the statue was not “immediately” removed.

Its removal was marked with a public event attended by former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, activist Bull Tsang of the League of Social Democrats, veteran pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu and up to 20 other supporters. A three-minute moment of silence was held as a tribute to the poet.

Statue Liu Xiaobo times square
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Leung told reporters: “This is a shameful thing for the landlord of Times Square. They don’t know they have the honour to host the statue of a Nobel Prize winner. Instead, they use money to force us away again and again.”

“Times Square belongs to the people of Hong Kong, not the landlord of Times Square.”

YouTube video

He added that a Pikachu exhibit or “Pokemon Carnival” featuring a game booth outside of Times Square was more obstructive than the statue.

Leung said that the group would move the statue to the pedestrian zones at the Patterson Street and Great George Street intersection: “There we shall see if there are any property owners or the police who will force us to leave. We do not want to clash with anyone.”

The Times Square piazza is private land dedicated for public use.

Additional reporting by Holmes Chan.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.