A University of Hong Kong (HKU) bridge that once bore a slogan dedicated to those killed during the Tiananmen crackdown has been painted over and lined with a row of potted plants.

Potted plants at Swire Bridge HKU

Workers shielded parts of Swire Bridge – located outside a dormitory – with metal panels and cordoned off the site in January, sparking concern that university authorities had ordered the removal of the campus’ last remaining Tiananmen tribute.

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The operation took place in broad daylight three days ahead of Lunar New Year, with students and staff away on break.

swire bridgeSwire Bridge University of Hong Kong HKU Tiananmen repainted
Before and After: Photo: May James/Tom Grundy/HKFP. Swipe to reveal.

School authorities said at the time that it was conducting regular “maintenance work.”

swire bridge
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Residents at Swire Hall painted the slogan on the bridge after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. A bloody military intervention ended months of student-led demonstrations on June 4 that year. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died in Beijing when the People’s Liberation Army cleared the protests.

swire bridge
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Every year since then, HKU students have retouched the slogan leading up to the anniversary. The inscription read: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre; Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evils.”

Campus crackdown

The removal of the slogan was part of a wider clampdown on commemorations of the Tiananmen crackdown at universities across Hong Kong. In December, HKU dismantled the Pillar of Shame statue – an eight-metre sculpture that depicts bloodied bodies bundled together – in the middle of the night.

The next day, also in the early hours, a Goddess of Democracy statue and a relief sculpture were taken down at Chinese University and Lingnan University, respectively.

CUHK Goddess of Democracy
The CUHK Goddess of Democracy. Photo: HKFP.

International rights groups condemned the removals. Amnesty International described the removal of the Pillar of Shame sculpture as “another attack on freedom of expression in Hong Kong, and a shameful attempt to erase history.”

The area where the sculpture was has since become a seating area, also adorned with potted plants.

University of Hong Kong HKU HKU Pillar of Shame seating area
The former site of the Pillar of Shame statue at the University of Hong Kong is now a seating area. Photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

Since the passing of the national security law, Hong Kong has intensified its silencing of the massacre. For the first time in 32 years, Victoria Park – where mourners gathered annually for a vigil – was empty on last year’s anniversary as police surrounded the area.

The since-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the pro-democracy group that organised the memorials, has also been accused of violating the security legislation.

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