China removes 'Pillar of Shame' with help from US law firm

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The Pillar of Shame is a disturbing 26-foot-tall sculpture meant to memorialize those who died in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The sculpture has been on display at Honk Kong University since 1997, but with China’s crackdown on human rights in Hong Kong, the sculpture has now been removed:

The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident…

Beijing had allowed the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the bloody incident, which also become part of Hong Kong’s collective memory.

But under the national security law, the vigil organiser – the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China – was forced to disband, and many protest leaders were jailed. It is clear that Beijing will no longer tolerate any public display of defiance.

The Danish sculptor who created the pillar said he was shocked at what was happening to it:

The statue was hidden behind barriers and then removed from the site in pieces, literally disappearing overnight.

The demands for the removal of the statue began in October and the artist has been fighting it ever since. The legal letter he initially received about its removal came from a US law firm called Mayer Brown. Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham both spoke out about the law firm’s involvement in October:

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who, last year, introduced legislation calling for sanctions should China fail to provide a full accounting of the events leading up to the outbreak of Covid-19, 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.”

Republican Senator Ted Cruz, whom China sanctioned last year for attacking China over its handling of the pandemic and treatment of the Uighurs, said, “American firms should be ashamed to be complicit” in the removal of the monument.

Under pressure, Mayer Brown resigned from working for HKU:

Going forward, Mayer Brown will not be representing its long-time client in this matter. We have no further comment,” the firm said in a statement.

The firm is withdrawing its representation of the university just on this issue. The University of Hong Kong is “a longstanding client and leading educational institution,” said a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity.

Mayer Brown, a Chicago-founded global law firm that has done work on police accountability and other civil rights issues in the United States, was contracted by the university to seek the statue’s removal, placing the firm at the center of a heated geopolitical dispute over the future of Hong Kong.

Just another hypocritical American company happy to help the PRC dismantle human rights so long as they keep getting paid for their part.

Sculptor Jens Galschiot is demanding the statue be returned to him, even if it gets returned in pieces. He says it has always been owned by him and was merely on long term loan. He’d like to get it back and put it on display in his home country. But who knows if it will ever be seen again now that the PRC has had it boxed up in shipping crates. Here’s an interview with Galschiot from October: