Hong Kong activists heed legal threats and move statue of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo from Times Square mall
Shopping centre’s management had warned group it would apply for court order for its removal from piazza
Hong Kong activists moved a statue of late Chinese pro-democracy icon Liu Xiaobo from outside a popular shopping centre on Tuesday after the building’s owner warned it would seek a court order for the group’s removal.
The group called the management of Times Square “shameless” and vowed to complain to the Lands Department to see if the mall had mismanaged public space.
“It is so regrettable that a public space which belongs to Hongkongers cannot even tolerate a peaceful display of the statue,” former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said.
The activists unveiled the 1.5-metre statue in Causeway Bay last Tuesday and wanted to display it until July 13 – the first anniversary of the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu.
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.
The mall had earlier sent the group a legal letter saying it had not asked for consent to use the open piazza and that the activists had violated rules by using loudspeakers to promote their political ideas and solicit donations.
Leung said the group was contacted again on Saturday and told that the management would apply for an injunction order if they refused to leave.
“We are too poor to take the case to court. The legal fees would cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Leung said, adding that they were moving with regret.
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 developer 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.
Last month, part of the public space was set for a Pokemon carnival, with Times Square’s official Facebook account promoting the event.
“Why could they allow commercial activities just next to our booth? I think that made the streets even more congested,” Leung said.
At 3pm on Tuesday, the group moved the statue, along with booths and the bust, to a nearby pedestrian area on Paterson Street in Causeway Bay.
Leung hoped the management of Fashion Walk – a mall near the spot where the group moved to – and police would stay away and allow them to display the statue till July 13, when they would hold a commemoration rally near the government headquarters in Admiralty to pay tribute to Liu, who died of liver cancer at age 61 while in custody.
A statement from Times Square last night said that the open piazza was the mall’s private property which was different from the public open space. It said the use of and the acts at the area by the activists did not comply with the relevant rules.
Given that the group had vacated the area on Tuesday afternoon, Times Square withheld the interim injunction application, the statement said.
Liu, who first spent time behind bars in the wake of the 1989 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.
Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao