After seizing a large statue dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, Hong Kong authorities yesterday denied entry to its creator, an opposition legislator said, in what democracy activists describe as growing censorship in this semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Chen Weiming (陳微明) was deported early yesterday after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles late on Tuesday, said opposition lawmaker James To Kun Sun (涂謹申), who met Chen at the airport. To said the US-based New Zealand national wanted to inspect his statue for possible damage.
The deportation came after Hong Kong police seized Chen’s Goddess of Democracy statue and his large carving depicting the June 1989 suppression of student protesters from a sidewalk on Saturday and arrested 13 activists protecting the two works of art.
The activists were freed on bail later on Saturday and police returned the two pieces on Tuesday.
“We are very annoyed. Why is Hong Kong denying him entry for political reasons? He is a very humble sculptor,” To said in a phone interview.
Hong Kong’s Immigration Department didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Holly Warren, a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Consulate-General in Hong Kong, said she didn’t have immediate comment.
The 6.4m-tall Goddess of Democracy statue, which features a woman holding a torch, is based on a similar one that was displayed on Tiananmen Square during the 1989 protests. The original was toppled by tanks during the military eviction.
The recent actions by the Hong Kong government are alarming to local activists because they are wary of losing the right to stage the only open commemorative activities for the Tiananmen crackdown on Chinese soil. While the massacre is still taboo in China proper, former British colony Hong Kong is promised freedom of speech as part of its special political status under Chinese rule.
Officials have said they will allow an annual candlelight vigil to go ahead as scheduled tomorrow. The vigil typically draws tens of thousands of people.