Two more Hong Kong universities remove Tiananmen artwork
The "Goddess of Democracy" had become a potent symbol of Hong Kong's local democracy movement Yan ZHAO AFP

Two Hong Kong universities on Friday removed sculptures marking Beijing's deadly 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square democracy protesters, as authorities move to erase the event from the Chinese city's collective memory.

The removals come a day after Hong Kong's oldest university took down a statue commemorating the events of 1989, sparking outcry by activists and dissident artists in the city and abroad.

Hong Kong used to be the one place in China where mass remembrance of Tiananmen was still tolerated, with thousands gathering each year to mourn democracy protesters killed by Chinese troops in 1989.

The city's university campuses have sustained the memory of the crackdown, with statues commemorating the events a vivid illustration of the freedoms the semi-autonomous territory enjoyed.

But early Friday, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) removed the "Goddess of Democracy" from its campus.

The sculpture by Chen Weiming -- a 6.4-meter (21-feet) high replica of the giant statue that students erected in Tiananmen Square -- had become a potent symbol of Hong Kong's local democracy movement.

Around the same time, the Lingnan University of Hong Kong removed another relief sculpture marking the Tiananmen crackdown.

The removals took place on Christmas Eve, when most students were on break and away from campus.

CUHK said it removed the "unauthorized statue" after an internal assessment, adding that the groups responsible for moving it to the campus in 2010 were no longer functional.

Lingnan University said it had taken down its statue after having "reviewed and assessed items on campus that may pose legal and safety risks to the University community."

Beijing is currently remoulding Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image after democracy protests two years ago and commemorating Tiananmen has become effectively illegal.

An annual candlelight vigil to mark the June 4 crackdown has been banned for the last two years, with authorities citing security and pandemic fears.

© 2021 AFP