‘Cowardice!’ Hong Kong outcry as Tiananmen Square statue removed overnight from campus

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Standing on campus grounds for more than two decades, the famous statue commemorating pro-democracy protesters killed during a crackdown by Chinese authorities depicted a heap of anguished human torsos. In a statement, the Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) said it decided to remove it during a Wednesday meeting, “based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the University”.

The statement said: “The HKU Council has requested that the statue be put in storage, and that the University should continue to seek legal advice on any appropriate follow up action.”

Known as the “Pillar of Shame”, the statue was a symbol of the wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong at its 1997 return to Chinese rule.

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in the former British colony to remember the 1989 massacre – which remains a taboo topic in China to this day.

Earlier, the institution sent a legal letter to the custodians of the statue asking for its removal.

It also said in its statement that no party had ever obtained approval to display the statue on its campus.

The letter stated that the university had the right to take “appropriate actions” any time and called the statue “fragile” – possibly posing “potential safety issues”.

Jens Galschiot, the Danish sculptor who created the statue, said in a statement he was “totally shocked” and that he would “claim compensation for any damage” to his private property.

Some students expressed their disappointment at the removal of the statue.

A 19-year-old student Chan told Sky News: “The university is a coward to do this at midnight.

“I feel very disappointed, as it’s a symbol of history.”

Another said he was “heartbroken” to see the statue “being cut into pieces”.

Before it was torn down, workmen in yellow hard hats were seen entering the statue site, which had been draped on all sides with white plastic sheeting and was being guarded by dozens of security personnel.

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Noises from power tools and chains could be heard from the closed-off area, and the top half of the statue was lifted by a crane towards a waiting ship container.

A truck later drove the container away on Thursday morning.

Hong Kong traditionally holds annual vigils to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

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