An Artist Is Imploring China to Grant Him Safe Passage to Hong Kong to Dismantle His Threatened Tiananmen Square Monument

The Danish artist said his presence is required on site to ensure the sculpture isn't destroyed.

The Pillar of Shame statue that commemorates the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. (Photo by Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Jens Galschiøt, a Danish artist who created a monument dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, is requesting assurance of safe passage for himself and his employees to travel to Hong Kong to dismantle the sculpture, which has been on display at the University of Hong Kong for more than 20 years.

Galschiøt wrote in an open letter that his presence is “necessary” on site to take down the massive copper sculpture, titled The Pillar of Shame, which weighs two tons and stands more than 26 feet tall, noting that without proper safety measures, “significant and irreparable damage” could befall the work, the artist has said.

In October, the university announced plans to remove the work and sent a letter to the now defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, ordering it to be removed from the premises, which Galschiøt saw as another step toward erasing evidence of the massacre.

“They really want to destroy everything about a story that China doesn’t want people to know about,” Galschiøt told Artnet News.

Despite the work order stating that The Pillar of Shame must be removed by a deadline of 5 p.m. on October 17no immediate action was taken, and according to the original letter from the university, it is now deemed “abandoned” and risks being torn down without consideration for the work itself. The artist wants to bring the sculpture back to Denmark, but has said that China’s new security laws in Hong Kong makes it so that “there is a legal basis for arresting foreign nationals who engage in activities that criticize China.” Removing the sculpture “could be perceived as criticism,” he added.

The enhanced security laws have led to the dismantling of numerous civil society organizations, including the Hong Kong Alliance, which was accused of being an “agent of foreign forces.” Just days before the annual memorial exhibition and Tiananmen vigil was set to take place, Chinese authorities shut down the June 4th Museum.

Galschiøt said that many of his contacts in the alliance were now in jail and could not be reached.

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