On this day in 1989, after more than a month of demonstrations, Chinese protestors occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing erected a 10-metre-tall statue called The Goddess of Democracy in a direct challenge to the Communist Chinese government.
In the hopes of bolstering the flagging protest movement, students at the Central Academy of Fine Arts began work on the sculpture on 27 May, at the academy. The Goddess of Democracy’s skeleton was a metal armature over which the students molded Styrofoam and papier-mâché. Over the course of four days, they carved the statue that bore a striking resemblance to America’s Statue of Liberty. (Sculptor Tsao Tsing-yuan has noted in past media appearances that the students deliberately decided not to model their statue on the Statue of Liberty because it would be unoriginal and too overtly pro-American.)
When the government heard of the students’ plan to transport the statue to the Square, it declared that any truck assisting them would lose its license. So the students leaked a false itinerary of the move to throw off authorities and hired six rickshaw-type carts to transport the statue in pieces. At dusk on 29 May, in front of some 10,000 protestors, the students constructed bamboo scaffolding and began assembling the statue. Troops called in to disrupt the construction were stalled by Beijing residents, and by the morning of 30 May 1989, the statue was fully assembled in Tiananmen Square—and some 300,000 spectators had gathered to see the event. At the unveiling, two Beijing residents tugged strings to remove the red-and-blue cloth covering the statue, revealing the Goddess. The crowd cheered and shouted slogans like, “Long live democracy!” The Goddess of Democracy stood 10 metres tall between the Monument to the People’s Heroes and Tiananmen Gate, facing a photograph of Mao Zedong, which TV cameras expertly framed in a silent, stony face off between the Goddess and the Chairman.
In the end, the statue was eventually demolished by the state, but it accomplished what the students were after, reviving flagging spirits and sending a message to the government of the protestors’ determination.
Today, there are at least five replicas of The Goddess of Democracy around the world, including San Francisco and Hong Kong, erected to honour the protestors killed in Tiananmen Square.
Credit: © Imagestate Media Partners Limited – Impact Photos / Alamy
Caption: A replica of the statue the “Goddess of Democracy” in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, China.