A sculpture commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was unveiled in Berlin, Germany, on May 22, on the site of the Wall which divided the city during the Cold War. 

The “Pillar of Shame“, an 8-metre statue by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, was first erected in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park in 1997, just one week before the British colony was handed over to the PRC. The following year it was moved to the campus of Hong Kong University (HKU), where it remained until it was dismantled and removed in December 2021 amid the crackdown on free speech and civil liberties following the enactment of the National Security Law by the Chinese Communist regime. 

The original Pillar of Shame on the HKU campus, 2007. By Minghong • CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

During a ceremony held on Monday on the forecourt of the Axel-Springer-Haus, the Berlin headquarters of the German publishing house Axel Springer SE, a copy of the artwork was presented to the public.

“Today the Axel Springer Freedom Foundation wants to take a stand alongside the brave dissidents, opposition figures and the politically persecuted, who are persecuted by the Chinese regime,” said Antje Schippmann, managing director of the Foundation, during the event. She added that the location for the statue near the former Berlin Wall was purposefully chosen to evoke a connection between the victims of the 1989 crackdown and the people who were shot by the East German regime while trying to cross the border. 

Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉), the Representative of Taiwan‘s government in Germany, said that the Chinese Communist government wants to “save face by hiding the memory of their actions”. He argued that the fight for freedom is not only a Western issue. “There are no Western values, there are universal values,” he added. 

Haiyuer Kuerban, head of the Berlin office of the Uyghur World Congress, drew attention to the persecution of the Uyghur population, millions of whom were deported to labour camps and used as slave labour to manufacture products for Western markets. “But democracy is like water,” said Kuerban. “It always finds a way, even if it’s just through the narrowest gaps.”

Axel Springer SE headquarters in Berlin. By Dosseman • Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tenzyn Zöchbauer, Managing Director of the Tibet Initiative Deutschland, warned in her speech against underestimating the influence of the Chinese Communist regime in Germany.

Hong Kong activist Ray Wong, co-founder of Freedom for Hong Kong, stated that the confiscation of the original statue by the authorities “shows how insecure the regime feels.”

At the end of the ceremony, artist Jens Galschiøt invited the attendees to paint the statue orange, a tradition that began in Hong Kong in 2008 to raise awareness about the PRC’s human rights abuses ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

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