Press Release 4 June 1998:
A Ball of Shame
One Year of Turmoil Elapsed for
Controversial Sculpture in Hong Kong
"The Pillar of Shame seems to have become a 'ball of shame', being kicked around by councillors", Mr Cheung Man-kwong, a core member of the Hong Kong Democracy Movement said two weeks ago. Mr Cheung referred to the 8 metres high sculpture created by the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot. The Pillar depicting more than 50 painfully twisted human bodies will be mounted once a year as a memorial of a severe infringement against humanity.
From the very beginning the destiny of the sculpture was completely uncertain. As the Pillar of Shame arrived in Hong Kong one year ago, many people expressed serious doubt that we would ever succeed to set it up in Hong Kong. Not even the first site for setting up the sculpture was really ensured.
Now, one year later, the situation is essentially unchanged. On Tuesday the Urban Council once again sacked the application to find a permanent site for the Pillar of Shame in public parks. So it is still unknown what will be the fate of the Pillar after its second display at the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on 4th June. Will the authorities eventually give way to the popular demand to set up the sculpture in a public park? - The close 18 - 19 vote gives hope for a changed attitude in the future.
This time the Urban Council majority, of which 9 members have been appointed, have displayed a refreshing honesty, openly admitting 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.
Maybe the students will once again take the Pillar in their custody. The Federation of Students are collecting signatures in favour of the public display of the statue. In a referendum the students have approved a permanent site on Hong Kong University. In September the university's leadership will take the final decision.
If no permanent site can be found, the only option left might be to bury the sculpture or place in a container, as an ultimate symbol of the pitiable conditions for free artistic expression in Hong Kong.
The agitated life of the Hong Kong Pillar of Shame has endowed the sculpture with a unique symbolism. One can hardly imagine how an art piece could become a more poignant symbol of an intransigent determination to safeguard free speech and democracy. After last year's solemn candlelight vigil, where 55,000 people gathered to commemorate the victims of the reckless crackdown of the students' revolt in Beijing, the Hong Kong students adopted the sculpture. They displayed it in turn on all the seven universities in Hong Kong, mainly to manifest their right to do so. By this unprecedented course of action the students have written art history: never before has a piece of art been staked so conspicuously for the defence of basic civic rights.
On the occasion of this years candlelight vigil Jens Galschiot declares:
"The fate of the Pillar of Shame is uncertain and unforeseeable. So is the fate of the reality of which the sculpture is a symbol: a free and democratic China. However, one thing is certain: the totalitarian and repressive regime in Beijing will not infinitely succeed to stifle the seeds of freedom, justice and democracy. As I've carved in the sculpture:
The old cannot kill the young for ever!
Information and photos on Internet:
|1997: The Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong|