The Pillar of Shame
in Hong Kong

 NA01143A.gif (987 bytes) Pictures of the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong  

May '96

We start planning the display of the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong during the period of the handover to China. For months the prospects for success don't seem promising. We send out heaps of letters but receive rather few reactions. It seems that most Hong Kong people are scared of meddling with such a controversial project that is defying the oppressive and totalitarian regime in Beijing.

September '96

We make contact to The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China with the aim of establishing a cooperation about the Pillar. The alliance is deemed as subversive by the old mens regime in Beijing.

November '96

The first Pillar of Shame is finished. This sculpture is a test model that will be used for exhibition purposes. It was presented to the world public at main entrance of the NGO Forum on FAO summit in Rome, Italy.

April '97

After due consideration the Alliance approves displaying the Pillar 4th June in Victoria Park as the focal point of the annual Candlelight Vigil in commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing in 1989. Being an expression of overt denunciation of the old men=s regime in Beijing, the Pillar of Shame will be a litmus test of the validity of old and new authorities vow of respecting the freedom of expression in Hong Kong. The concept of the Hong Kong Pillar of Shame is now quite clear: it will be a gift to the Chinese people in support of human rights and freedom of expression in China including Hong Kong. - As the Pillar is allowed in Victoria Park only for one day during the Candlelight Vigil, it is still uncertain where the sculpture can be set up after 4th June.

The Pillar of Shame for Hong Kong is cast in concrete armoured with fibres.

We make a contract with the Danish forwarding company Blue Water about transport of the sculpture to Hong Kong where it is scheduled to arrive 25th May. The Swiss company M+R has agreed to take care of the sculpture at the arrival and set it up in Victoria Park. From the very beginning we=ve made it clear to M+R that we're dealing with a controversial political sculpture that will be set up in support of the democracy movement in China.

30th April The sculpture is loaded from our workshop into the container.

2nd May The container is shipped from Hamburg, Germany on board the good ship Ming East.

6th May We begin the engraving of the copper plates with photos from Tiananmen and texts in English. Galschiot and his helpers will take the plates with them in the plane.In Hong Kong they will be fixed on the sculpture.

11th May We send out a press release to about 700 newspapers, radio- and tv-stations in more than 100 countries. We design a special envelope with a photo of the Pillar of Shame and the text from the base of the sculpture The old cannot kill the young forever in Chinese and in English.

14th May A Select Committee of the Urban Council bans the exhibition of the Pillar in public parks, alleging that the sculpture is an expression of support to British colonialism. An application for pro-democracy rallies in a public square between 25th June and 1st July was also rejected.

19th May We send out an open letter to the Urban Council with a clarification explaining that the decision of the Select Committee is based on erroneous assumptions: we do not support British colonialism and we are not opposed to Hong Kong's reunification with China. For us there is no contradiction between decolonisation and the struggle for human rights. So we urge the Urban Council to reverse the decision. Our clarification and the declaration about the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong are submitted to the full Urban Council.

20th May With 18 votes to 13 the full Urban Council confirms the decision of the Select Committee of banning the exhibition of the Pillar in public parks. But the pro-democracy rallies are allowed. The debate provokes a lot of turmoil. After the setback 11 democrats storm out of the meeting. They say the rejection is an example of political screening and a flagrant act of self censorship: not even by means of art a radical criticism of the Beijing regime is tolerated. The pro-democracy councillors protest outside the Urban Council wearing white surgical masks with the words "political censorship"

The news is spread all over Asia and the rest of the world. Locally and globally the Pillar of Shame has become a symbol of the Hong Kong citizens' struggle for human rights and freedom of expression.

24th May We send out a press release blaming the decision of the Urban Council and urging the Regional Council (in the New Territories) to vindicate the freedom of expression, allowing the exhibition of the Pillar.

27th May The Swiss forwarding agent M+R (Metzger + Richner) has got cold feet and rejects complying to the agreement of taking care of the sculpture and setting it up in Victoria Park. The decision has been made at the highest level, by Mr Richner himself. The turmoil about the sculpture makes the company fear for its position on the Chinese market.

28th May We send out a press release blaming M+R for giving higher priority to greed than to human rights.

29th May With the votes 18 to 15 the Regional Council turns down the permission to display the Pillar of Shame in a public park. We send out a press release blaming the decision.

30th May Jens Galschiot and his helpers arrive in Hong Kong after 24 hours of flight. In the Kai Tak Airport they are welcomed by a committee from the Hong Kong Alliance. A press conference is attended by about 40 journalists. There are many questions about the withdrawal of M+R and the delay of the Pillar of Shame that was scheduled to arrive 25th May. The artist is asked about his motives for creating the sculpture and launching the happening. Many people express their doubt that we'll ever succeed setting up the sculpture in Hong Kong.

An opinion poll by the Hong Kong University Social Science Institute tells that 41 per cent of the Hong Kong citizens disapprove Urban Council's ban on the Pillar while 32 per cent back the decision.

31st May The Pillar of Shame arrives at the Kwai Chung container port.

1st June The students' union decides during its 1st June meeting to display the Pillar on the roof of the Haking Wong podium at the Hong Kong University. The students of the other universities are also interested in displaying the sculpture.

A pro-democracy march to Xinhua (the New China News Agency, the unofficial representation of the People=s Republic of China) is attended by 3,500 according the police, 7,000 according to the organizers.

3rd June The sculpture is moved from the container port to Victoria Park where it is erected by volunteers and members of the Alliance. The copper plates are fixed on the base of the sculpture. The plates with texts in Chinese are made by the Alliance, those with texts in English and photos from Tiananmen are made by Galschiot.

4th June AThe Pillar of Shame rose majestically above the crowd, spotlights highlighting its haunting faces.@ So the Hong Kong Standard describes the Pillar displayed as the focal point of the solemn Candlelight Vigil in Victoria Park. About 55,000 people are gathered to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown eight years ago in Beijing. People from all walks of life flooded to the park, in despite of the admonition of Hong Kong=s future head of government Mr Tung Chee-hwa to put behind the 4th June baggage and focus on the reunification with China. Many fear the Candlelight Vigils will not be tolerated after the handover, although freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Basic Law, Hong Kong=s new constitution. Mr Tung says that demonstrations will be allowed if they are carried out peacefully and lawfully, and that he will not give demonstrators Athe pleasure of becoming martyrs@.

5th June In the night after the Candlelight Vigil the Pillar is carried to the University of Hong Kong, escorted by the police. University security refuses to open the gates. Hundreds of police keep watch nearby. At four o'clock in the morning, after three hours of clashes police let the lorry through the college gates. The sculpture is placed in sections on the ground. College heads refuse to let students stand the two-tonne statue on the campus' podium because they say it is too heavy for the building to support. Ms Linda Wong Shui Hung and Mr Patrick Wong Chun Sing from the students' union accuse the university of political censorship. But the university denies there is any political consideration behind the refusal.

7th June The head of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Mr Oscar Ho has invited to a press conference for a discussion about art, politics and ethics. In addition to Mr Ho himself and Jens Galschiot the head of the art critics association Mr Lau Kin Wai takes part in the discussion. The members of the Urban Council were invited to the conference. Some members are present and ask questions to the artist - one member asked questions by letter. Galschiot runs a video about his previous happenings.

Hong Kong University backs down and allows the Pillar of Shame to be erected on campus. But it wants the sculpture to be removed in two weeks.

10th June Before his departure Galschiot holds a press conference with student leaders from Hong Kong University, the Chinese University and the City University. The students say they are determined to display the Pillar of Shame on the campuses.

16th June Twenty-five students assisted by ten experienced volunteers from the Alliance put up the Pillar of Shame on the podium of the Haking Wong Building at Hong Kong University. The sculpture is set up with winches, pulleys and scaffolding, as a crane cannot be used to place it on the roof of the building. The students have reached an agreement with the authorities to display the statue until 30th September.

1st July Hong Kong=s reunion with China. This event marks the end of the colonial era. No true democrat can be against decolonisation. But what will be the fate of human rights and freedom of expression in the SAR (Special Administrative Region)? Will the democratic guarantees of the Basic Law and the principle One country - Two systems be respected? - We hope the Pillar of Shame will be a valuable contribution to the defence of the basic rights of the Hong Kong citizens.

28th Sep. The Pillar is set up on the campus of the Chinese University on the eve of the anniversary of the People=s Republic of China 1st October. The date has not been chosen accidentally. The Student Union find the celebration of the >National Day= ironical, in view of the outrageous suffering incurred on the Chinese people by the old men=s regime in Beijing. The Pillar of Shame precisely depicts this oppression.

2nd Nov. The Pillar is transferred to Lingnan College.

30th Nov. The Pillar is transferred to Baptist University.



23rd Jan. University of Science and Technology.

1st March Polytechnic University.

29th March City University. Now the Pillar has been displayed on the campuses of all seven universities in Hong Kong.

31st May The Pillar is transferred to Victoria Park.

2nd June With a close 18 - 19 vote the Urban Council once again sacks the application to find a permanent site for the sculpture in public parks. For the first time the majority, of which 9 members have been appointed, openly admits that the ban on the sculpture is based on political considerations. All displays should be non-controversial in nature because people should not be forced to see with which they did not agree@, councillor Ip Kwok-chung says. Appointed member Annie Wu says that Hong Kong people should not discuss matters concerning the Beijing government under the one country, two systems policy.

Previously the majority had stressed that the refusal had nothing to do with political considerations, but was due to the low artistic quality of the sculpture.

4th June The Pillar of Shame is once again the focal point of the candlelight vigil in commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. - After the ceremony the sculpture is stored in a container until a site can be found.

1st July Despite the authorities' opposition to the Pillar, the civic rights situation is better than many had feared one year ago on the eve of the handover. Until now all applications for public manifestations have been granted.



Jens Galschiot - Banevaenget 22 - DK-5270 Odense N - Denmark

Tel. (+45) 6618 4058 - Fax (+45) 6618 4158 - E-mail:  - 

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China: 

South China Morning Post: 

Hong Kong Standard: 

Pressed 10.08.98

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