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Art students and their "Goddess of Democracy" statue

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1989

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Construction of the

Art students put finishing touches on their "Goddess of Democracy" statue, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. 1989.

Jeff Widener / Associated Press. Used with permission.

These art students in Beijing, China based their "Goddess of Democracy" sculpture on the American Statue of Liberty, which was a gift to the US from a French artist. The Statue of Liberty symbolizes the US/French commitment to Enlightenment ideals, variously expressed as "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" or "Liberté, égalité, fraternité."

In any case, these were radical ideas to espouse in China. Indeed, the idea of a goddess is radical in itself, since communist China had been officially atheist since 1949.

The Goddess of Democracy statue became one of the defining images of the Tiananmen Square Protests in their hopeful stage, before the People's Liberation Army moved in and turned the event into the Tiananmen Square Massacre in early June, 1989.

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