A large sculpture of Hong Kong protesters will be erected outside the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen next Thursday.
The modified version of Danish artist Jens Galschiøt’s eight-metre tall Pillar of Shame – which depicts contorted bodies to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre – includes the faces of Hong Kong demonstrators with helmets, goggles and gas masks.
Hong Kong activists living in Denmark are set to attend the launch ceremony. The sculpture will stay outside the Danish Parliament for three months.
The Pillar of Shame was originally made to mark the crackdown in Beijing on June 4, 1989, which ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to clear Tiananmen Square of protesters.
Galschiøt, the creator of the pillar, said in the project was a collaboration between himself, Alternativet – a Danish green political party – and NGO Amnesty International Denmark. A group of politicians from parties in the Danish Parliament, including Inuit Ataqatigiit, Socialistisk Folkeparti, Enhedslisten and Fremad, also supported the project.
“Hong Kong citizens only have a chance of preserving freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly if they are backed by us in the West,” Galschiøt said. “I have talked to activists in the democracy movement and I know this kind of support is crucial to them.”
Large-scale protests initially over a now-withdrawn extradition bill have shaken Hong Kong for more than seven months. The movement has morphed into calls for an independent investigation into police conduct, the unconditional release of all of those arrested since June, a retraction of the “riot” characterisation of protests and democratic reform.
A Pillar of Shame sculpture was moved to the University of Hong Kong campus by students in 1997, shortly after it was exhibited at the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park.
Galschiøt was denied entry to Hong Kong twice in 2008 and 2009, but was allowed to enter the city in 2013.
Uffe Elbæk, leader of Alternativet, said his party has focused on the “disturbing and deeply critical situation” in Hong Kong for a long time, and sent observers to the District Council election 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. Freedom of speech and the right of peaceful assembly is under attack and methods like facial recognition is being used in tyrannical ways, which we want to be unlawful in Denmark,” Elbæk said.
General Secretary of Amnesty International Denmark Trine Christensen said it was important for her group to show solidarity with Hong Kong people.
Amnesty International has documented incidents of Hongkongers’ rights being curtailed. The organisation has also documented cases of police violence against protesters and the use of unnecessary or excessive force.
“We will not accept peaceful protesters being beaten, imprisoned and prevented from expressing their opinions. Human rights apply everywhere – also in China,” said Christensen.
Denmark’s famous “Little Mermaid” sculpture was graffitied with red paint reading “Free Hong Kong” early on Monday.