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Univ. of Hong Kong bows to China crackdown on dissent, uses 'mafia' tactics to get rid of sculpture honoring Tiananmen Square massacre victims

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Photo by Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the rest of the world has been distracted by the COVID pandemic, the people of Hong Kong have found themselves under increasing anti-freedom, anti-West pressure from communist China.

The city once enjoyed significant autonomy, even after the British turned it over to China in 1997 — and for more than 20 years, the people had pretty free lives. But over the last couple years, the Xi Jinping regime has cracked down on the people's liberties.

In May 2020, the ChiComs announced they would bypass the Hong Kong legislature and impose the nation's national security law, which criminalizes any sort of pro-democracy demonstrations or movements or displays that undermine communist rule.

And Hong Kong's leaders have gotten on board with strongman Xi's commands. For example:

  • The city's officials are pledging loyalty to China's Communist Party.
  • Hong Kong police arrested the former senior editor and two other employees of the Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper that was raided by authorities and forced to close in June.
  • City authorities are now censoring films in order to "safeguard national security."
  • The once-autonomous city's government has imprisoned anti-communist protesters.
  • Security forces within Hong Kong's own legislature dragged pro-democracy lawmakers out of the legislature and then blocked the doors in order to install pro-China leadership.

The latest example of China's crackdown came this week at the University of Hong Kong, as the Xi regime continues to attempt to erase the memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

For more than two decades, the Pillar of Shame sculpture has sat on the campus, on loan from its Danish creator, Jens Galschiot, Reuters reported.

The artwork — which the Wall Street Journal's Jillian Kay Melchior described as a "gruesome sculpture" depicting "dozens of human bodies contorted in agony, some with mouths open in silent screams, some skeletal and apparently motionless" — memorializes the victims of the 1989 massacre.

Photo by Katherine Cheng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Image source: YouTube/South China Morning Post screenshot

Galschiot has called the work "an overt accusation of the old men's regime in Beijing" and "a litmus test of the authorities' vow to respect human rights and free speech in Hong Kong," Melchior wrote.

Now the university has demanded that the sculpture be removed by close of business Wednesday, saying that if it is not gone by the deadline, it will be "deemed abandoned," the school declared in a letter late last week, the Journal reported, and "the University will deal with the Sculpture at such time and in such manner as it thinks fit without further notice."

Galschiot called out exactly what he saw happening, according to Reuters.

Danish artist Jens Galschiot (Photo by Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

He noted that he had loaned the massive piece of artwork to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, a civil society group, in perpetuity, Reuters said.

The group disbanded in September after members were accused of national security offenses and some were imprisoned for anti-government protests.

"These people are in jail. And [the school officials] say within four days you should take it down," Galschiot told Reuters, adding, "So, I think this is a warning."

"This is a kind of mafia," he continued. "I am really shocked."

He warned that the school had better not destroy his property: "If they destroy it, then we will take action. I think there is still some legal system in place in Hong Kong to protect private property."

Part of a trend

Melchior documented more of China's attempt to erase all memories of the Tiananmen Square Massacre:

The action against “The Pillar of Shame" is the latest in a series aimed at purging the historical events of Tiananmen Square from Hong Kong's collective memory. For decades, thousands gathered in Victoria Park on June 4, the anniversary of the massacre, for a solemn vigil organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. But since 2020, Hong Kong police have refused to issue a permit for the event and have warned that anyone who showed up could face criminal charges. Police massed this year outside Victoria Park, and photos showed the once-crowded expanse standing eerily vacant.

Authorities have also shut down the Hong Kong Alliance's June 4th museum. The government cited Covid restrictions and a lack of valid licensing, but it's clear the goal is suppression. In September police raided the museum, seized assets, and accused the Hong Kong Alliance and three of its leaders of incitement to subversion under the national-security law. Chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and vice chairmen Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung now face up to life in prison if they're convicted. Under duress, the Hong Kong Alliance disbanded late last month.

Watch next what happens in Hong Kong's classrooms, libraries and history texts. The South China Morning Post reported this year that some teachers canceled their annual lessons on the Tiananmen Square massacre, fearing they could be targeted under the national-security law.

It's "up to the West," she closed, to make sure the world remembers communism's past and present victims.

Hong Kong university orders removal of sculpture honouring victims of Tiananmen Square crackdown www.youtube.com

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