‘Pillar of Shame’ honoring Hong Kong protesters to be displayed at Danish parliament

The Pillar of Shame. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.
The Pillar of Shame. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

An eight-meter sculpture of Hong Kong protesters done in the style of the iconic Pillar of Shame will be put up for display outside the Danish parliament on Jan. 23.

The statue is the work of Danish artist Jens Galschchiøt, who in 1996 created the original Pillar of Shame — consisting of a column of contorted bodies — at a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization summit to commemorate those lost to global hunger. Another was erected in Hong Kong the following year to memorialize the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing. Since then, two others have been erected commemorating massacres in Mexico and Brazil.

“Hong Kong citizens only have a chance to maintain their freedom of speech and assembly if they are backed by us in the West — even if we only have the opportunity to give them moral support,” Galschiøt said in a press release. “I have spoken to those who fight in the democracy movement and know that this support is crucial for them.”

To demonstrate solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, Galschiøt’s soon-to-be-exhibited artwork will be a modified version of the theme, and will include the faces of Hong Kong protesters complete with their trademark helmets, goggles, and respirators.

Hongkongers in Denmark are expected to attend the unveiling of the sculpture, which will be displayed for three months in collaboration with local green-leaning political party The Alternative and the Denmark branch of Amnesty International.

Uffe Elbæk, the convener of The Alternative, said his party had been concerned about the “disturbing and deeply critical situation” in Hong Kong for a long time, and sent observers to the district council elections last year.

“We are showing our support and commitment to the people of Hong Kong. We support this because the conflict in Hong Kong also tells a story about human rights being under pressure many places in the world today,” Elbæk said in the official statement.

Amnesty, meanwhile, has spoken out against the police’s misuse of force during Hong Kong’s ongoing seven-month protest movement, with Trine Christensen of Amnesty International Denmark saying it was “important for us to show solidarity with the people of Hong Kong who are fighting for the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly.”

“We will not accept peaceful protesters being beaten, imprisoned and prevented from expressing their opinions. Human rights apply everywhere – also in China,” Christensen said.

Hong Kong’s Pillar of Shame is currently on display at the University of Hong Kong, where it was taken by students in 1997 shortly after it was first displayed at that year’s annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Since its unveiling, Galschiøt has reportedly been denied entry to Hong Kong twice — once in 2008, and again in 2009 — but was allowed to enter the city again in 2013.

Oddly enough, this won’t be the first time this month that a statue in Denmark has made headlines in Hong Kong. The country was also in the news after its famous waterfront Little Mermaid statue was scrawled with the slogan “Free Hong Kong” by unknown vandals last week.

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