Two more Hong Kong universities have torn down monuments commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre from their campuses in the early hours of Friday morning.
The removals came one day after the University of Hong Kong (HKU) tore down the Pillar of Shame, another Tiananmen Massacre tribute, on Thursday, citing safety issues and legal concerns.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong removed the Goddess of Democracy from its campus on Friday morning, whilst Lingnan University removed a Tiananmen Massacre relief citing safety and legal issues.
According to Jeffrey Ybanez, a freelance journalist, the CUHK sculpture had already been removed from its spot near the MTR station when he arrived to the campus at around 6:30 a.m. on Friday.
A mobile crane was spotted at the scene, and workers were seen washing the floor where the statue used to stand with a high pressure washer.
“In 2010, the University received a request from the Chinese University Student Union to display the statue on its campus,” a CUHK statement said. “The University’s Administrative and Planning Committee unanimously resolved not to approve the request and its opposition and principles are on the public record. The University never authorised the display of the statue on its campus, and no organisation has claimed responsibility for its maintenance and management.”
The Goddess of Democracy statue, created by Chen Weiming, was an imitation of the original monument erected by student protesters in Beijing at the end of May in 1989.
The 64-year-old artist currently based in Los Angles told HKFP on Friday that the two universities removed the monuments overnight, similar to how HKU tore down the Pillar of Shame a day before, to avoid criticism.
“This indicated they were very scared that the removal of the monuments would spark public outcry, hence they did such a shady thing overnight. It is a major regret. I am concerned about whether the monuments are damaged and where they are placed currently,” he said.
“When I have more information… I will contact my lawyers in the US to see if any legal actions will be taken,” he added.
The original statue was destroyed when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on the Beijing protests, ending months of student-led demonstrations in China on June 4, 1989. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands of people died.
On Friday, on campus, a Year 1 student told HKFP that she had just posted a picture on her Instagram account of the statue on Thursday after the Pillar of Shame at HKU was removed. In her caption, she wondered if this would be next: “And then it really happened,” the 18-year-old journalism student, who gave her initial as “J”, said. “I guess I thought it would but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”
She said that the statue was particularly iconic because many school events, like orientation camp activities, would be held here. It was also a common meeting point for students. “We would say wait at the Goddess of Democracy statue, not ‘wait at the MTR station.'”
“It’s clear the government is trying to wipe this moment from history. We won’t forget, but maybe the next generation will not recognise it,” she added.
An exchange student from Germany, who gave her initial as “S,” said she had heard rumours that the statue would be removed after what had happened at HKU, but she was still surprised when she woke up today and learnt it was gone.
“I had taken pictures of the statue throughout the semester,” the 21-year-old, who is flying home this month, said. “People were saying that over time, these symbols of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong are going to disappear, so I wanted to remember them.”
As a student studying governance, S. said she read about the political developments in Hong Kong both in class and in her own time. “I think it made us aware of the freedoms we take for granted.”
A relief sculpture was dismantled and removed from Lingnan University campus in the early hours of Friday. Online streaming footage appeared to showed staffers blinding onlookers with strobe lights as they tried to film the process.
A spokesperson from the university told HKFP that “the University has recently reviewed and assessed items on campus that may pose legal and safety risks to the University community. In the best interest of the University, items in question have been cleared, or removed and stored appropriately.”
The relief was another creation of Chen, completed in May 2009. The monument was exhibited at Times Square in Causeway Bay alongside the Goddess of Democracy in 2010.
It was separated into several pieces and is now being stored inside a building on campus, according to Eric Tong, chairperson of the 54th Ad Hoc Administrative Committee of the Lingnan University.
The 23-year-old political science major told HKFP on Friday that the university did not inform students about the monument’s removal. Student representatives are seeking “legitimate” explanations from the university administration over why the sculpture was taken down.
“The student union expresses deep regret for the university’s unilateral decision to remove the monument, with no communication with the students. We also strongly condemn the move by the university to obliterate the historical symbol.”
A large image of the Goddess was also covered up at the student union.
Additional report: Hillary Leung and Kelly Ho.
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