A Danish artist is seeking to get back his sculpture in Hong Kong memorializing the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square as a deadline loomed for its removal

HONG KONG — A Danish artist is seeking to get back his sculpture in Hong Kong memorializing the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown as a deadline loomed for its removal Wednesday.

Jens Galschioet said in an emailed statement that he had hired a lawyer and hopes he will be able to transport the sculpture out of Hong Kong “under orderly conditions and without it having suffered from any damage.”

Hong Kong University last week demanded the removal of the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture by 5 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Wednesday.

The university lawyers sent a letter to an activist group, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, saying the sculpture would be deemed abandoned if it were not taken away by that time.

Galschioet loaned “Pillar of Shame” to the group, which disbanded last month amid a crackdown on independent political activism in the semi-autonomous city. The sculpture has been in Hong Kong for 24 years.

China’s leaders sent in the military to end pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

The ruling Communist Party has squelched any public discussion or memorializing of the events in mainland China. For years, the only major memorial on Chinese soil was an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, but authorities have banned the gathering for the past two years, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The artist told The Associated Press in an interview last week that it would take months to move the sculpture properly.

“This is really not fair,” he said. “I think it’s a kind of attack, it’s an attack against the art, and it’s an attack against the memory about the Tiananmen crackdown. I think they will destroy it, this is the reason they do that.”

His statement said his lawyer had sent a letter Tuesday requesting a hearing on the issue and that they are seeking an amicable resolution. He would not reveal the name of the law firm.

“I am, of course, deeply concerned that … the sculpture will be destroyed in connection with the move and I would like to emphasize that I consider any damage to the sculpture to be the responsibility of the university,” he wrote.

Hong Kong University did not immediately reply to a request for comment.