Photo credit: Ka Man Mak
On Wednesday 25th May, a collaboration between Hong Kong Committee in Norway, Amnesty International and Oslo Freedom Forum unveiled the monument ‘Pillar of Shame’ in the courtyard of the University of Oslo’s Law faculty. It is also the final day of the Oslo Freedom Forum conference. The monument created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøst played homage to the victims of the Tiananmen Square 4th June 1989 massacre. A replica is now in Oslo until 23rd June.
The Pillar of Shame was first set up in Hong Kong on 4th June 1997 and was removed from the University of Hong Kong last year. Replicas of the monument had been set up in Mexico, Brazil, and Budapest to symbolise the oppression of human rights.
Around 50 people turned up to the event under bursts of rainfall. Norwegian politicians, such as Guri Melby (V) and Rasmus Hansson (MDG), alongside Hong Kong activist, Glacier Kwong, Leader of the Hong Kong Committee in Norway, Jessica Chiu and Danish artist, Jens Galshiøst took turns for their appeal. Glacier Kwong and Jessica Chiu emotionally read out the names of Hong Kongers who were arrested due to the national security law and are still awaiting trial. “Hear their names, and remember them,” said John Peder Egenæs, Amnesty International.
Both Jessica Chiu and Glacier Kwong spoke about their student years at the University of Hong Kong and passing the monument. For Glacier, when she heard that the monument would be removed, she realised that it was a “huge thing to have the Pillar of Shame on campus.” “On one hand it represented freedom of speech – the academic freedom we used to have in Hong Kong that I have taken for granted until we lost it. On the other hand, it represents how insecure the Chinese government is. They can’t even tolerate a piece of art to remind people of what happened on 4th June 1989.” This year, the candle vigil to commemorate the 6th June massacre is banned in Hong Kong.
Samuel Chu, a Hong Kong activist and President of the Campaign for Hong Kong has a personal connection with the Pillar of Shame and was among the audience at the event. In 2020, Hong Kong authorities issued an arrest warrant against Samuel which makes him possibly the first foreign citizen to be targeted under the National Security Law. His father, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, helped Chinese dissidents after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and initiated the candlelight vigil in the next decades to commemorate it.
“I think to see the symbol now being erected in Oslo, and in Budapest early this year, and it’s going to be in Prague next week… To see that kind of power, it’s a feeling of understanding that once you tasted and lived in freedom, it can’t be erased from people’s memory and consciousness. The other thing that was overwhelming for me was hearing the names of the people who were arrested under the National Security Law,” said Samuel Chu.
He ended the interview with, “The time is now. The tasks fall on the rest of us to continue to remember and to serve as that voice of conscience. […] China will always like to say that Hong Kong belongs to China and it is an internal matter, but I completely disagree given my own personal experience what I had experienced over my lifetime. Hong Kong doesn’t belong to China, Hong Kong belongs to the world.”
“Hong Kong doesn’t belong to China, Hong Kong belongs to the world.”sAMUEL CHU, hONG kONG aMERICAN aCTIVIST and President of the Campaign for Hong Kong
Watch our interview with Samuel Chu, a Hong Kong activist and President of the Campaign for Hong Kong.
Watch Glacier Kwong’s speech at Oslo Freedom Forum