Hong Kong activists have held their annual washing of the Pillar of Shame, a monument at the University of Hong Kong that commemorates the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Around 10 representatives from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China placed flowers at the pillar and observed one minute of silence. They then scrubbed the engraving at the pillar’s base.

The event also coincided with the centenary of China’s anti-imperialist May Fourth movement. “Over the past hundred years, the people who speak the truth with a scientific spirit have been tortured and oppressed, and the people fighting for democracy have been imprisoned and in some cases… gave their lives,” said HKA Chairman Albert Ho.

“We hope that democracy and science will flourish in China in the near future,” Ho added, referring to the two tenets of the May Fourth movement.

albert ho pillar of shame
Albert Ho (centre) speaks before the Pillar of Shame. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The Pillar of Shame was created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt in 1996, and was moved to the University of Hong Kong campus by students in 1997 right after being exhibited at the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park.

See also: The Pillar of Shame: The history of Hong Kong’s harrowing tribute to the Tiananmen Massacre victims

The statue depicts a number of twisted bodies to symbolise those who died in the massacre, with the history of the event carved in the base. The statue was painted orange in 2008 as part of The Colour Orange project, which aimed to raise awareness of human rights issues in China.

Pillar of shame washing
Members of the Hong Kong Alliance was the Pillar of Shame. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

HKA representatives also placed flowers at a statue of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, located in a different campus building.

Liu Xiaobo statute
Flowers at the Liu Xiaobo statute at the University of Hong Kong. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Liu was jailed for 11 years in 2008 for inciting “subversion of state power” after he penned Charter ’08 – a manifesto urging democratic reform. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but passed away in July 2017 – becoming the first laureate to die in custody since 1939.

Activist “Bull” Tsang Kin-shing complained that campus security did not allow the activists to move Liu’s statute so that it could be displayed next to the Pillar of Shame. Tsang accused the university of “cowardice” because it did not want the statute to be displayed in a public place.

Pillar of shame
Members of the Hong Kong Alliance commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The event on Saturday was not attended by student union representatives of the university. The HKUSU has conducted its washing of the Pillar of Shame separately since 2016, though it has not yet announced details for this year’s event.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.