Protesters erect 'Lady Liberty' statue on Hong Kong mountain top

Jerome TAYLOR
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The statue depicts a female protester in a gas mask, goggles and helmet, and had been celebrated at rallies across Hong Kong

The statue depicts a female protester in a gas mask, goggles and helmet, and had been celebrated at rallies across Hong Kong (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

Pro-democracy protesters hauled a four-metre statue known as "Lady Liberty" to the top of a famous Hong Kong mountain early Sunday, announcing the peak would be its "final resting place".

The statue depicts a female protester in a gas mask, protective goggles and helmet, an umbrella in one hand and a black flag in the other, proclaiming the protest slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times".

It was a regular feature at larger, more peaceful rallies this summer, eliciting cheers when it was wheeled in by volunteers and transported around the city on the back of a truck.

But on Sunday organisers said Lady Liberty had made her final journey as they unveiled her at the top of Lion Rock, a 495-metre peak overlooking a forest of skyscrapers, intimately linked to the city's democracy movement.

Alex, a 32-year-old protester who created the statue, said volunteers used the cover of night to carry the 80 kilogram (180 pound) artwork up the steep path to the summit.

"We had a team of 16 climbing professionals carrying her in two main pieces all the way to the summit while another 16 members carried equipment and supplies," he told AFP, only giving his first name.

"Lion Rock will be the final resting place of the Lady Liberty of Hong Kong," the team said in a statement, adding it would be up to authorities to remove it.

Named because its shape resembles the big cat, Lion Rock has been a symbol of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement for years with large banners demanding freedoms or criticising Beijing frequently unfurled by hardy protesters.

- 'Lion Rock Spirit' -

"Lion Rock Spirit" is used by Hong Kongers to summarise the city's can-do attitude -- as well as its reputation for liberty compared to the authoritarian mainland.

The mountain overlooks Kowloon's densely packed working-class districts where many escaping communist China during the worst excesses of the Mao-era first settled.

During 2014's large pro-democracy protests, demonstrators unfurled a huge yellow banner down one of the rock's cliff faces, linking the mountainside to modern-day acts of civil disobedience.

In September, during a mid-Autumn festival, hundreds of protesters gathered on Lion Rock and other peaks surrounding the city shining laser pens and lanterns.

Alex, Lady Liberty's creator, said it was inspired by the "Goddess of Democracy" statue that pro-democracy protesters erected in 1989 inside Tiananmen Square before China crushed the movement.

A version of the Goddess of Democracy is a feature of the annual 4 June Tiananmen vigils in Hong Kong, the only place in China where commemorations of the crackdown can still be held.

But with the international finance hub rocked by its own unprecedented protests aimed at halting sliding freedoms under Beijing's rule, activists wanted to create a Hong Kong version of the Goddess of Democracy.

Much like the protests themselves -- which are leaderless and organised online -- the design for Lady Liberty was crowd-sourced.

"We invited design proposals on LIHKG, organised a universal vote asking people to pick their favourite design," Alex said, referencing the most popular forum for Hong Kong protesters.

Asked why they had chosen Lion Rock to be the statue's final journey, he said it was "a symbolic gesture to infuse a refreshed mindset for the fight for democracy".

The mountain and the statue, he added, represented "the fundamental values and beliefs" of the protest movement.