Late on Wednesday night, security guards at the University of Hong Kong placed yellow barricades around the eight-metre (26-foot) high, two-tonne copper sculpture called the "Pillar of Shame" that commemorates those killed by Chinese authorities more than three decades ago.
The artwork, of anguished human torsos, is one of the few remaining public memorials in the former British colony to remember the bloody crackdown that is a taboo topic in mainland China, where it cannot be publicly commemorated.
Loud noises from power tools and chains emanated from the closed off area for several hours before workmen were seen carrying out the top half of the statue and winching it up on a crane towards a waiting shipping container.
A truck later drove the container away early on Thursday. The site of the statue was covered in white plastic sheets and surrounded by yellow barricades.
Several months ago, the university had sent a legal letter to the custodians of the statue asking for its removal.
Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot, who created the statue, said in a statement he was "totally shocked" at this move against his private property and that he would "claim compensation for any damage to the sculpture".