Published May 29, 2010
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong police on Saturday confiscated a statue and a carving mourning victims of China's 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square and arrested 13 activists, a participant said, in what critics called an escalation in political censorship in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
China's military suppression of pro-democracy student protesters in Beijing in June 1989, which killed at least hundreds, is still a taboo topic on the mainland. But in Hong Kong, a former British colony that enjoys Western-style civil liberties, the incident is openly mourned, with tens of thousands usually attending an annual candlelight vigil on the evening of June 4, the anniversary of the crackdown.
However, on Saturday, Hong Kong police officers confiscated a Tiananmen-themed statue and a carving shortly after pro-democracy activists set them up outside a popular mall as part of their annual commemorative activities, TV news footage showed.
The "Goddess of Democracy" statue -- a new replica of a similar statue that was erected in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 protests -- depicts a woman holding a torch and a book labeled with the words, "Liberty," "Democracy" and "Justice." The carving is a large tablet depicting the military action.
Pro-democracy activist Richard Tsoi said by telephone that police arrested him and 12 other activists, including an opposition legislator. He said they were still being detained but weren't immediately charged.
Hong Kong police didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
Fellow activists condemned the police action, accusing the Hong Kong government of trying to curb public mourning of the 1989 killings.
"We've staged similar activities before and have never been treated so barbarically and so violently," pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho told reporters. "This is clearly a move designed to crack down on mourning activities for Tiananmen Square."
As part of its special semiautonomous status under Chinese rule, Hong Kong is promised Western-style freedoms typically denied in the mainland, such as freedom of protest and freedom of speech. But critics accuse the Hong Kong administration of slowly encroaching on those freedoms under pressure from Beijing.