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