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Tiananmen Square Memorials Removed, Pro-Democracy News Shuttered

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24-foot-high “Pillar of Shame” memorial. | Image from HKFP

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While students were on Christmas break at Hong Kong University (HKU), workers at the school took down the twenty-four-foot-high “Pillar of Shame” memorial, removing it in two pieces on Wednesday night, reported the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).

The “Pillar of Shame” statue on the school’s campus commemorates those who perished in the 1989 Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

Tiananmen Square became the focal point for demonstrations calling for greater political freedoms in 1989. Thousands of people camped in the Square for weeks, but the country’s People’s Liberation Army moved in and opened fire on the protesters in June of that year. According to the Chinese government, two hundred civilians and a few dozen military personnel were killed. Other estimates have ranged from a few hundred to tens of thousands killed.

“The statue had stood for more than 20 years; it had been there since I got into HKU,” Jason Wong told the HKFP. Wong, a student and representative on the school’s governing council, said he spoke out at a meeting and expressed his opposition to the memorial’s removal hours before it was taken down.

The worksite was hidden behind covers and barricades, and security guards kept reporters away, the HKFP reports.

The BBC noted that the memorial’s destruction comes as Beijing tightens its grip on Hong Kong politics.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the removal of the memorial was followed by the closure of a pro-democracy media outlet after a police raid on December 29.

According to a statement from Stand News, the company’s website and social media accounts will be deactivated because they are no longer updated. All employees have been fired, according to the document.

The Apple Daily newspaper shut down after its publisher, Jimmy Lai, and top editors were arrested, and the newspaper’s assets were frozen. It was one of Hong Kong’s last remaining voices openly critical of communism.

The office of Stand News was raided earlier in the day after six people, including popular singer and activist Denise Ho, were arrested on charges of conspiring to publish a seditious publication.

Authorities also removed a twenty-one-foot-tall bronze replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” — a figure displayed by protestors calling for democracy during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests — from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, according to American Military News.

Multiple public murals commemorating the massacre victims were also removed or painted over at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University.

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