A statue of the late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been removed from the storefront of a pro-democracy shop after the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) accused the store of unlawfully occupying unleased land.
Herbert Chow, CEO of Chickeeduck, told HKFP that the Tin Hau branch of the clothing store had received a joint letter from the FEHD, the Home Affairs Department, the Lands Department and the police following a visit by FEHD officers to the shop last Friday.
The store was told to remove a bench, a wooden staircase and the statue of the Nobel Peace Prize winner from its storefront. Chow said he had asked the pro-democracy League of Social Democrats (LSD) group, which owns the statue, to remove it so that it will not “end up in the government’s hands.”
Koo Sze-yiu from the LSD and Chow removed the statue on Sunday. According to HK01, the sculpture was moved to non-profit radio station Citizens’ Radio in Chai Wan.
Chow said the staircase had been left by the previous tenant of the Tin Hau store and that the government had not had an issue with it for a decade. Chickeeduck opened in Tin Hau last December and the sculpture was put outside the store three months ago.
“I think if it was an issue with violating the land lease, they would not be enforcing the law 10 years late. I think the law enforcement officers did so in accordance with the law, but their decision now… I believe it was a top-level instruction from their superior,” said Chow.
“The only variable was that 10 years ago there was no Liu Xiaobo [statue].”
Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the LSD, told HKFP that the matter of the statue was previously handled by former lawmaker “The Bull” Tsang Kin-shing, who is currently serving a prison sentence over last year’s July 1 pro-democracy protest.
The chairperson said the party is still to discuss what it will do with the sculpture.
Chow said that, while the bench was also removed, he had contacted the police to say he would need more time to deal with the wooden staircase. He was initially given a deadline of Monday to remove it. He said the process of restoring the store’s original entrance will take two weeks.
When asked if he would try to showcase the statue of Liu again, Chow said: “definitely.”
“However, we now have difficulty renting stores, so it’ll be difficult to estimate where we can put it,” Chow said.
Liu was a veteran activist from the Tiananmen Square protests, which ended in a massacre on June 4, 1989. 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. Liu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, died from liver cancer in 2017 while serving an 11-year prison sentence.
It is not the first time a Chickeeduck store was visited by government officers. In May, the retail chain’s Tsuen Wan branch was cordoned off by national security police.
Chow said at the time that he was warned not to sell or display any products that violate the security law but that officials refused to tell him whether any of his products had, in fact, breached the law.