Hong Kong – A famous statue at the University of Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre was removed late on Wednesday.
The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.
It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident.
Its removal comes as Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.
The city used to be one of few places in China that allowed public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests – a highly sensitive topic in the country.
In 1989, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for demonstrations calling for greater political freedoms. Thousands of people camped for weeks in the square, but in June the military moved in and troops opened fire.
The Chinese government says 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel died. Other estimates have ranged from hundreds to as many as 10 000.
The university had initially ordered the removal of the statue – called the Pillar of Shame – in October.
“The decision on the aged statue was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
“The university is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue.”
The Chinese authorities have previously cited safety or public health concerns as reasons for preventing events such as vigils taking place on anniversaries of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The first sign the statue was being taken down came late on Wednesday, when university officials fenced off the area with plastic sheeting.
Construction workers worked overnight behind plastic barriers to dismantle the 8m (26ft) copper statue. Security guards blocked reporters from approaching and tried to stop them from filming.