By John Kusumi
Authorities in Hong Kong test the patience
of the pro-democracy movement
The Goddess of Democracy, herself, is the main character in this year’s activities surrounding the 21st anniversary of China’s Tiananmen crackdown. The Goddess of Democracy was originally created by students at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, and installed during the “June 4” uprising at Tiananmen Square. It stood from May 30, 1989 – June 4, 1989, when the army demolished the statue upon reaching Tiananmen Square after shooting their way through the streets of Beijing, killing at least 3,000 innocent civilians.
What is at hand is a developing story based in Hong Kong. Something new has occurred each day since Saturday, May 29. This update simply repeats the news in chronological sequence, for a timeline or reference of events to date.
Goddess-gate, Day 1, Saturday May 29, 2010:
First Goddess Captured
Hong Kong police arrest 13 and seize the first (6.4 meter) Goddess of Democracy Statue and another piece of artwork. The 13 activists of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China were at the Times Square shopping mall of Causeway Bay, to diseminate information about the pro-democracy cause and this year’s activities for the 21st anniversary of the June 4 crackdown. The activists were freed on bail later on Saturday. Via a Facebook group, Alliance members threatened to surround North Point police station – where the art was kept – if the items were not returned by Thursday evening, in time for annual June 4th commemoration in Victoria Park.
The official justification for the action named the Food and Environmental Hygiene department as the department objecting to the unlicensed display of the Goddess. However, it’s not just that department. If one looks ahead in the story to “Goddess-gate Day 5,” one can see the Hong Kong immigration department also participating in this episode of political suppression.
Goddess-gate, Day 2, Sunday May 30, 2010:
Second Goddess Captured
Defiant demonstrators paraded a smaller (2.2 meter) Goddess of Democracy Statue through the streets of Hong Kong. This, too, was seized by police. Several protesters tried to prevent the removal by lying on the road. Two activists, Alliance vice chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and member Leung Kwok-wah, were arrested. A group of at least 20 sympathizers gathered outside the North Point police station calling for their immediate release. Some even tried to force their way into the station. Lee and Leung were released on bail at 10:30pm.
Goddess-gate, Day 3, Monday May 31, 2010:
A defiant demonstrator dressed up as the Goddess of Democracy for another march in the streets of Hong Kong. The police could not confiscate the live demonstrator.
Goddess-gate, Day 4, Tuesday June 1, 2010:
Two Goddesses Released
After a two hour negotiation with Alliance activists at the North Point police station, Hong Kong police “free” the two statues. According to the Hong Kong Standard, “Acting Chief Superintendent Anna Tsang Yim- sheung of the Police Public Relations Branch said the statues were released early as a goodwill gesture. Tsang added: ’We understand the organizers had an urgent need to set up the statues for the vigil on June 4. So we made an appropriate arrangement.’”
The Standard also noted that “Alliance officials refused to sign a document in which they would have acknowledged violating the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance with their Times Square activities and pledging to make applications in future.”
The Goddesses were moved to Victoria Park for the upcoming June 4 memorial vigil.
Sculptor Chen Weiming flew to Hong Kong from Los Angeles to inspect his statue for damage.
Goddess-gate, Day 5, Wednesday June 2, 2010:
Chen Weiming Deported; Nancy Pelosi Issues Statement
The government of Hong Kong refuses entry to Chen Weiming and deports him. The Associated Press quoted opposition lawmaker James To as saying, “We are very annoyed. Why is Hong Kong denying him entry for political reasons? He is a very humble sculptor.”
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, issued a statement for the 21st anniversary of Tiananmen, and noted the Goddess-gate controversy in Hong Kong.
She said, “This year for the first time [in Hong Kong], police arrested activists and confiscated the Goddess of Democracy replica statue that is the symbol of the Tiananmen movement. This crackdown on freedom of expression will only succeed in shining a spotlight on the courage of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. The United States must stand solidly with the people of Hong Kong in their desire for democracy and freedom of speech and assembly.”