A man who was filmed pushing over a statue of the Goddess of Democracy — a prominent symbol for pro-democracy movements in China and Hong Kong — was handed a fine by a Kowloon court today.
Wang Xizhao, a 32-year-old insurance manager from Shenzhen, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage during an appearance at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts yesterday, Ming Pao reports.
The incident in question took place on July 23, when Wang was spotted at City University of Hong Kong’s campus in Kowloon Tong ripping notes from the campus’ “democracy wall.” Such walls, longstanding fixtures of campuses across the city, serve as noticeboards where students can share their opinions freely, and have been sources of political tension in the past.
In a video posted online, Wang can be seen tearing notes off of the City U wall before turning his attention to a nearby two-meter-tall statue of the Goddess of Democracy, pushing the large sculpture over and causing it to break at the neck and arms.
Wang is confronted by other students, who try to prevent him from leaving by grabbing his shirt and blocking his way, but he runs into a library, only to be stopped by a security guard and escorted away. He was arrested shortly afterwards.
The statue was given as a gift to the university’s students’ union by an unnamed artist, and is a replica of the statue erected in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy protests that precipitated the June 4 massacre in 1989. The students’ union valued the statue at HK$25,000 (about US$3,200), and demanded Wang pay for the damages.
Wang told the court that he is a City University alumni and graduated in 2009, and was in Hong Kong to review an insurance policy.
He said that when he went to visit his alma mater, he was irritated by the messages on the wall, which he felt were “causing unrest in Hong Kong,” and claimed that him pushing over the statue was an accident (if you can call planting your feet, putting your back into it, and shoving as hard as you can with both hands an accident), and that he had been unable to control his emotions.
Wang’s attorney also presented a medical report saying he suffered from anxiety, and adding that Wang had traveled from Shenzhen to Hong Kong for his court date because he respected the rule of law, Headline Daily reports.
Wang said he was happy to pay a “repair fee” of up to HK$5,000, but would not pay the HK$25,000 in compensation requested by the students’ union.
Principal Magistrate Peter Law said that it was not appropriate to discuss compensation at this stage as the statue was a gift and that it wasn’t possible to calculate its value.
He said it was regrettable the statue was broken, but accepted that the event was not premeditated and that Wang couldn’t control his emotions at the time.
Headline Daily reported that the students’ union was happy with the conviction but would continue to seek compensation through civil channels.