Statue to Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo erected in Hong Kong’s Times Square despite protest from building’s owner
League of Social Democrats goes ahead with unveiling to pro-democracy icon despite letter from lawyers saying it had not asked permission and was breaking the law
Hong Kong activists unveiled a statue of late Chinese pro-democracy icon Liu Xiaobo outside a popular shopping centre on Tuesday, despite being asked to leave the area by the building’s owner.
The group called on the management of Times Square to allow them to stay until July 13 – the first anniversary of the death Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu – and said they would leave the site afterwards.
“Times Square is really the place where we can meet the most mainland tourists … not many of them have heard of Liu Xiaobo because of the censorship in China,” League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen said.
“I really hope the management of the mall could show some kindness and allow us to stay for just one more month.”
The unveiling of the 1.5 metre statue in Causeway Bay, which cost HK$170,000 (US$21,700) and was donated by an unnamed citizen, came days after managers at the mall instructed their lawyers to ask the activists to leave the public space.
The group first set up a booth outside Times Square with a bust of Liu, and an exhibition to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown, on May 31.
According to a copy of the letter seen by the Post, the lawyers said the group had not asked for consent to use the Open Piazza, and said they had violated rules by using loudspeakers to promote their political ideas and solicit donations.
The letter added the mall had received a number of complaints from members of the public.
The 3,017 square metres of public space outside the mall is managed by Times Square. Under a special agreement signed between the mall’s developers and the government in 1992, the piazza can be used for “pedestrian passage and passive recreation/open space”.
In return, the mall was granted extra gross floor area of about 22,000 square metres, which is roughly equivalent to 5½ soccer pitches, or 80 tennis courts.
“We have no intention of challenging any law as we only hope to commemorate Liu and call for the release of Liu Xia,” the league’s Tsang Kin-shing said, referring to Liu’s widow, who has been under house arrest since 2010 despite not being charged with any crime by Chinese authorities.
“If Times Square really gets hold of an injunction [to kick us out], we would move our booth to the pedestrian street … which is no longer under its management.”
Tsang said the booth would be removed once Liu Xia, a 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer, is freed.
A Times Square spokesperson sidestepped the question when asked if activists would be allowed to stay until July 13, only reiterating that the group had not submitted any application to hold an activity in the open piazza.
“As the venue owner and manager of Times Square, we have a duty to ensure public safety and order at the Times Square open piazza,” the spokesperson said, adding the mall had received many complaints of passage obstruction and noise from visitors and nearby businesses.
Meanwhile, the group of Hong Kong activists also launched a worldwide online petition campaign urging President Xi Jinping to release Liu Xia, and allow her and her brother Liu Hui to leave the country.
Last month, Liu Xia told her friend, the exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, that she was “ready to die at home” in protest after being kept under house arrest for nearly eight years, saying “dying is easier than living”.
Germany and the United States have renewed calls for Liu Xia’s release, and for her to be allowed to travel overseas.
“The online petition could be very powerful,” said Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises the annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
“I hope people around the world who love peace – but not just Chinese – sign the petition so we can all see Liu Xia free soon,” Ho said.
The statue is to be displayed in a commemoration to be held on July 13 near the government headquarters in Admiralty to pay tribute to Liu Xiaobo, who died of liver cancer while in custody last year.
Liu Xiaobo, who first spent time behind bars in the wake of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08”, which called for sweeping political reforms in China.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but was never able to accept the honour in Oslo.