Student jailed for 6 months over plan to unfurl banner featuring Hong Kong sculpture created to mark Tiananmen Square crackdown

Asia World

A Hong Kong court has jailed a mainland Chinese student for six months for sedition over a plan to display a large image of a sculpture created to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Zeng Yuxuan, 23, was on Tuesday back at West Kowloon Court to be sentenced for attempting or preparing to commit a seditious act, a day after she admitted the offence.
Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen said Zeng’s scheme to unfurl the nine-meter-tall (29-foot-tall) banner on the June 4 anniversary of the crackdown could have triggered strong emotions among like-minded individuals, especially as it was a “sensitive” date.

He highlighted the involvement of Danish artist Jens Galschiøt and former Tiananmen student leader Zhou Fengsou in the offence.

A student has been jailed for six months at West Kowloon Court after she admitted a charge of sedition. Photo: Jelly Tse

Law said they had given Zeng the lithograph print, which could provoke hatred of the Chinese government.

The magistrate added Zhou, now based in the United States, had also played a substantial role through the use of social media to try and draw attention to the defendant’s arrest and prosecution.

Zeng, a juris doctor student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, earlier admitted trying to stage a flash mob display of the giant banner in Causeway Bay in protest against the police force’s removal of the Pillar of Shame sculpture, which Galschiøt created.


The force’s national security unit confiscated the artwork in May during an investigation into the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organiser of the city’s candlelight vigil, which held in Victoria Park on the Tiananmen Square anniversary every year between 1990 and 2019.
Galschiøt has appealed to activists around the world to display printed and digital copies of the seized artwork to counter what he said was Beijing’s attempt to erase its own history.

The giant banner, emblazoned with an image of the eight metre sculpture, said the 1989 crackdown was a “massacre” and that “the old cannot kill the young forever”, a statement which also appeared on the sculpture.

Mainland student in Hong Kong admits to sedition over Pillar of Shame banner

Magistrate Law said the words used were sharp criticisms of the authorities and capable of stirring up anger.

He added the case was more serious than an ordinary member of the public writing provocative messages online, as the banner’s display, even temporarily, could generate more impact because of Galschiøt’s reputation and international influence.


“The defendant in the present case was definitely not acting alone. Her personal influence might be small, but she was a participant in an international campaign … the impact of which was not limited by geographical constraints,” Law said.

The court took into account Zeng’s high level of premeditation, including a plan to move into a nearby hotel before the banner was unfurled and pretend to be a tourist if confronted by police.


But the magistrate accepted the defence’s submission that the banner was unlikely to galvanise people into taking radical action.

He reduced Zeng’s nine-month sentence by a third to reflect her early guilty plea.

Goddess of Democracy statue, Tiananmen memorial removed from Hong Kong campuses

Zeng at first faced a second count of sedition over an alleged public display of mourning for a man behind a 2021 knife attack on a police officer, but the prosecution dropped the charge after she pleaded guilty to the banner offence.


Her prosecution in June was widely reported on social media.

Zhou published a series of posts that said he would bear responsibility and praised Zeng’s display of “unwavering courage” in the face of “tyranny”.

The Pillar of Shame had stood in the University of Hong Kong’s Pok Fu Lam campus since 1997 and regularly featured in the city’s Tiananmen Square commemorations.


The university’s governing body removed the statue in late 2021 because of unspecified legal risks before police seized the artwork as evidence.

The Victoria Park park vigil was banned by police in 2020 and 2021 on the grounds of public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.