The eight-metre tall Pillar of Shame statue which sits on the University of Hong Kong campus connects a Danish artist, China and Hong Kong with the commemoration of 1989 Tiananmen Massacre victims. Each year, on June 4, students wash the statue – HKFP’s May James photographed the tradition.
“The old cannot kill the young forever,” is engraved on the base of the pillar – above it, a towering entanglement of human suffering cast in bronze, copper and concrete.
Its Chinese name, meaning “Pillar of Remembrance” or “Pillar of National Grief,” was translated by the late pro-democracy politician Szeto Wah, who formed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China in May 1989 before the June 4 massacre.
The pillar, created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt in 1996, 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. It was repainted orange in 2018 as part of a “Free Tibet” campaign ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
“Let us remember the youth that lost their life at Tiananmen Square and let us support the youth in Hong Kong, so we will not see the same tragic outcome once again,” the Pillar of Shame artist Jens Galschiøt said in a press release on Thursday.
An inscription on the Swire Bridge is also renewed each year. Since 1989, the bridge has featured white lettering reading: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre; Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evils.”