A bronze replica of the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled Monday at a ceremony in the York University Student Centre as a reminder of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China.
It replaces the former Goddess of Democracy statue that had stood in the student centre for some 21 years.
“We dedicate this equally inspiring work of art to the students and citizens of Beijing who sacrificed their lives for freedom and democracy,” said York political science student Siva Vimalachandran, chair of the York University Student Centre Corporation. He called the previous Goddess statue “an inspiring monument”.
The new eight-foot tall statue, a gift of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, was sculpted by Ruth Abernethy. Her other works include the Glenn Gould statue – Glenn – outside the CBC building on Front Street in Toronto and the Oscar Peterson memorial – Oscar’s Corner – at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Former Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan joined Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino, former journalists and Tiananmen eyewitnesses Senator Jim Munson, Jan Wong and others for the unveiling ceremony.
The original Goddess of Democracy was erected in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at the height of the student protests in China in 1989. “This bronze replica of the Goddess of Democracy is one way the world can keep the memory alive in the face of the Chinese government’s continual denial and blockage of any references to the massacre on the Internet,” said Cheuk Kwan, chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.
The installation of the Goddess at York marks the second such permanent memorial to the 1989 student movement in China. The first is a sculpture of a crushed bicycle unveiled in 1992 at the University of Toronto, which was also a gift from the Toronto Association for Democracy in China to the student union.
The ceremony was also a tribute to Professor Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist and a mentor to a whole generation of Chinese students during the 1989 pro-democracy movement, who passed away on April 6 in Tucson, Arizona. Lizhi received a honorary doctorate of science in 1993 from York for his role as scientist and Chinese democracy advocate.