Pillar of Shame in Hongkong by Jens Galschiøt
Jens Galschiøt/Gallery Galschiøt
14th of October, 2021
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PILLAR OF SHAME
HAS BEEN PREVENTED … FOR NOW
We have passed the deadline for the removal of my Tiananmen Square crackdown memorial “The Pillar of Shame” and for now the sculpture is still standing. When asked if Hong Kong University would extend the deadline due to the weather, a Hong Kong University spokesperson did not directly respond but told Hong Kong Free Press that they “are still seeking legal advice and working with related parties to handle the matter in a legal and reasonable manner”.
Neither I nor my lawyer have been contacted by Hong Kong University or Mayer Brown.
If “The Pillar of Shame” is to be removed from the spot, where it has been residing the last 24 years, I think it is an attack on Hong Kong and the Chinese people’s rights to remembrance and talking about their own history. Incidentally, it is shameful that it is precisely one of Hong Kong’s best universities which demands a monument, which remembers and cherishes history, to be moved.
Hong Kong University should be a beacon of the intellectuals in Hong Kong, and the relocation of this sculpture will forever be a blemish on their reputation.
I would like to emphasize that, of course, I would like to move it and respect the university's right to decide over their own area. But I need time to prepare and arrange where the sculpture is to be moved. There are more options:
The Pillar of Shame has for 24 years been placed in Hong Kong as a monument to the horrors of Tiananmen Square in 1989. Perhaps the foundation under it is eroding these days as the Chinese authorities, through a US law firm, have orchestrated an assassination attempt on art.
But art will always prevail! Regardless of attempts to rewrite history and obscure the past, the symbols of art will always persist and grow stronger and stronger, for art will always carry a narrative in and of itself that resonates with our shared memory in current reality. A sculpture is not a static construction, but will always reflect time and context, and thereby dynamically renewing the space around it.
The light shed on art is vibrant and changeable across time and space. Only silence could silence the Pillar of Shame, so China has made it stronger, and day by day it grows taller, so that it can now be seen all around the globe. People gather around it because it carries the seeds of humanism within its core.
The immortality of art is assured, and we will triumph in the name of humanism, democracy, and truth, and even if the Pillar of Shame is destroyed, it will cast its shadow not just across borders, but as an inviolable symbol in the common consciousness of us all. Realms will perish – while art persists.
The Law firm Mayer Brown representing University of Hong Kong, last week demanded the Hong Kong Alliance to relocate the Pillar of Shame within 6 days. Most of the members of the Alliance have been arrested for illegally commemorating the Tiananmen massacre and is I jail.
This short deadline was brutal and almost criminal. It's the kind of methods that an Italian mafia boss will use in Europe and is not worthy of an official school or government. Furthermore the command was not addressed to the owner, the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt.
Mayer Browns justification is: “We were asked to provide a specific service on a real estate matter for our long-term client, the University of Hong Kong. Our role as outside counsel is to help our clients understand and comply with current law. Our legal advice is not intended as commentary on current or historical events.”
This statement contains several errors/contradictions:
First it is not a matter of real estate, since the Pillar is owned by the sculptor, Jens Galschiøt. However it is a significant symbol of the Chinese crackdown on the students on Tiananmen Square
Second: It is not a matter of complying with Hong Kong law, since this was introduced by the Chinese take over last year. It is rather supporting the Chinese communist party to overrule local Hong Kong law and traditions.
Third: It seems contradictory that an American law company, based in the country with democratic traditions assists the Chinese government in eradicating the sole monument of the Tiananmen crackdown in Asia. Thereby smothering this artistic commeration of the grim tragedy - and a significant historical event- in modern Chinese history.
And Fourth: Is this action ethically acceptable? To assist the Chinese governments suppress democracy and freedom of expression? How does it comply with Mayer Brown chairman Paul This statement: “Diversity and inclusion have always been moral imperatives at our firm…”? Is that exclusively some fine words without intention?
I think the company should withdraw from the case. I would urge anyone who supports human rights, the arts and the Chinese people’s right to remember their own history to take action on social media and directly to Mayer Brown to make them aware of what they are doing.
Morally reprehensible: I believe that Mayer Brown is morally and ethically responsible for helping to destroy the only mark of remembrance of the Tiananmen peace plan that exists on Chinese territory. Already after World War II, it was decided: that those who helped carry out abuses against the people were as responsible as those who committed the act itself - an American law firm should know that.
Their participation in this act that goes against all American values will make waves far into the official circles of the United States. And presumably to destroy and cause lasting damage to Mayer Brown images.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham lashed out at Mayer Brown: “It is even worse American law firms are doing the bidding of the Communist Party to erase the memory of the brave, young Chinese students who gave their lives for freedom in Tiananmen Square.”
Jens Galschiøt – Denmark, 14. of Oct. - 2021
Mobil: +45 40 44 70 58 Phone: +45 66184058
Here is some links to the documents surrounding the massacre in 1989 4th June 89 - Documentation -- (aidoh.dk)
Link to the history of Hong Kong sculpture from 1997 The Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong, 1997 -- 'THE OLD CANNOT KILL THE YOUNG FOREVER ' (aidoh.dk)
You can download photo from this page The Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong, 1997 -- 'THE OLD CANNOT KILL THE YOUNG FOREVER ' (aidoh.dk)
and from this Pillar of Shame (galschiot.com)
They are all without copyright. Click on the bar with press or on the photo fro to get them in high quality
Press releases and open letters - 2022
Press releases and open letters - 2021