Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue is no stranger to vandalism. It’s been painted over, climbed on and groped, it even had its arm and head chopped off multiple times.
But early on Monday, Denmark’s most famous statue became entangled in a conflict raging thousands of miles away, after the message “Free Hong Kong” was sprayed on her base in big red letters.
Copenhagen Police said the incident happened in the early hours of Monday. According to a police spokesperson, the area was searched using police dogs, and officers are currently reviewing CCTV footage.
Hong Kong has seen months of unrest which shows no sign of stopping. Protests began there in June when millions of people came out onto the streets to oppose a controversial bill that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China.
That bill has since been shelved, but the protests have morphed into something bigger, with activists calling for greater democracy and an inquiry into allegations of policy brutality.
The “Free Hong Kong” slogan is often seen on posters carried by the protesters.
It’s not the first time the vandalism targeting the Little Mermaid has turned political.
In 2017, vandals poured red paint over the statue and wrote “Danmark (sic) defend the whales of the Faroe Islands” on the ground in front of it.
The world-famous sculpture is made of bronze and granite and is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale about a mermaid who gives up everything for her land-living prince.
The figure depicted in the sculpture was inspired by ballerina Ellen Price, who danced the lead role in the ballet The Little Mermaid at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in 1909.
Price posed for sculptor Edvard Eriksen, but refused to model in the nude. Therefore, Eriksen modeled the mermaid’s head on Price and her body on his wife Eline, who posed for him.
The sculpture was gifted to the city of Copenhagen by the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1913. Jacobsen was the son of the founder of the Carlsberg brewery and oversaw the company’s expansion.