Two replicas of the Goddess of Democracy statue are standing tall in the countdown to the June 4 candlelight remembrance vigil in Victoria Park - after winning an early release from police custody yesterday.
Police agreed to "free" the statues - one a 6.4-meter bronze and the other a 2.2m rendering in a white plastic-like material of the icon from the 1989 democracy movement and the June 4 crackdown - a day earlier than planned.
Along with a carved tablet portraying the events in Tiananmen Square 21 years ago, the bigger goddess was taken away by authorities on Saturday and the smaller one on Sunday after they were displayed - illegally, according to police - in Times Square, Causeway Bay. Along the way, 13 democracy activists were arrested.
The two days of action set off claims about Hong Kong losing its freedoms.
But freedom for the twin goddesses came yesterday after two hours of talks involving the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China with officers at North Point Police Station. Acting Chief Superintendent Anna Tsang Yim- sheung of the Police Public Relations Branch said the statues were released early as a goodwill gesture.
Tsang denied there had been political motives behind the seizures, claiming officers acted out of concern for public safety.
She added that questions in dealing with the case centered on whether the display of the statues was legal or not and whether a repeat of the Times Square incidents was on the cards.
Tsang added: "We understand the organizers had an urgent need to set up the statues for the vigil on June 4. So we made an appropriate arrangement."
The police had been firm that the alliance could not take the statues back to Times Square, alliance vice chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said.
But alliance officials refused to sign a document in which they would have acknowledged violating the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance with their Times Square activities and pledging to make applications in future.
Once they skirted around that problem, police agreed to let the statues go on display in Victoria Park from last night until the end of the vigil on Friday.
Lee also said it was unreasonable for the police to arrest 13 members who were guarding the statues at the weekend. The alliance may seek a judicial review on the matter.
In Victoria Park, however, days of trouble were forgotten as the statues arrived. "The Goddess of Democracy stands up," alliance members chorused.
The statues will today be positioned on one of the hard-surfaced football pitches that form the venue for the remembrance. But instead of giving out balloons in the form of the Goddess of Democracy, alliance member Cheung Man-kwong said, organizers will distribute 80,000 luminous stickers at the vigil.