The Danish artist behind Hong Kong’s “Pillar of Shame” monument to the Tiananmen victims has created a new sculpture related to free expression. Jens Galschiøt’s “Freedom of Speech” bust depicts a screaming man wearing a gag.

A spokesperson from Galleri Galschiøt said that the artist wanted to make a project dedicated to people in Denmark who were losing their jobs for expressing the “wrong” opinions. They said Galschiøt was disturbed that the issue was arising in territories where free speech is meant to be protected.

Jens Galschiøt
Freedom of Speech. Photo: Galleri Galschiøt

“I often sit in on TV and Radio debates and talk to people from the public sector. And sometimes, after the camera is off and I ask them why they said what they were saying, they often say that it is not their own opinion… but a point of view they have to express because, otherwise, their bosses would go after them,” he told HKFP.

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

Jens Galschiøt
Freedom of Speech. Photo: Galleri Galschiøt

“[I] often sit and debate with people who are driven by anxiety, and it debilitates any debate. If we want a well-functioning public sector, employees must not only have the right to express themselves but have a duty to tell their experiences so we all know how the system is really working.”

The spokesperson said that the artist hoped the work would resonate with Hongkongers, “especially when journalists and the press are under attack for voicing opinions that the Chinese government would like to keep quiet.”

Jens Galschiøt
Freedom of Speech. Photo: Galleri Galschiøt

“If everyone is wearing some kind of metaphorical gag, about one thing or another, how can we communicate with each other? This is a huge obstacle for the very important conversations we as [a] society should be having,” they added.

Pillar of Shame
The Pillar of Shame. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Galschiøt has also designed a highway sign that honours victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre to mark 30 years since the crackdown. The three square metre sign was set up in April at an exit near the city of Odense in Demark and points to Galschiøt’s gallery.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.