Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Student’s death fuels anger among Hong Kong protesters

Chow Tsz-lok had been in a coma after fall from a building during clashes between police and protesters

People attend a rally in Hong Kong to mark the death of university student Chow Tsz-lok on November 8, 2019. Reuters
People attend a rally in Hong Kong to mark the death of university student Chow Tsz-lok on November 8, 2019. Reuters

A Hong Kong student who fell in a parking garage near a protest earlier this week has died, a development that could potentially inflame protests planned for this weekend.

Chow Tsz-lok suffered a brain injury after falling early on Monday as police carried out a dispersal operation nearby using tear gas. A spokesman for the Hospital Authority confirmed Friday that he was certified dead at 8.09am.

While some demonstrators have committed suicide during months of protests in Hong Kong, nobody has been confirmed dead as a direct result of a clash between police and demonstrators. Anger over police tactics and injuries to protesters has been a major focus of recent rallies.

“Considering it’s the first death that’s happened at a police-people confrontation scene, it will certainly add fuel to the already strong fire of anger – particularly when people generally have absolutely no trust in the system, and the police,” said Alvin Yeung, a pro-democracy lawmaker.

Hong Kong's government expressed "great sorrow and regret" over Chow's death despite undergoing surgery and treatment.

"The police have stated earlier that they attach great importance to the incident and the crime unit is now conducting a comprehensive investigation with a view to finding out what happened," it said in a statement.

About 1,000 masked protesters marched through the busy central district at lunchtime, chanting "Disband the police force," ''Hong Kong people, revenge" and "A blood debt must be paid in blood". Some carried white flowers and placards that read "Hong Kong is a police state".

Calls for “flash mob” demonstrations marking his death were trending on online protester forums.

“We are very sad about the incident, we do not know what’s the next step,” said a 31-year-old bank employee who asked to be identified by the surname Tam as she protested in centrally located Chater Garden. She said the midday rally was about showing that Hong Kong people “have not let go” of grievances that have fuelled the protests.

Chow, 22, was a second year computer science undergraduate at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper. University President Wei Shyy briefly paused the school’s graduation ceremony to announce Chow’s death and observe a moment of silence.

The death comes after five months of historic unrest in the region’s main financial hub. Sparked by a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, the protest movement expanded to include calls for greater democracy, morphing into the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule over the former colony since its return to China in 1997.

Prominent activist Joshua Wong mourned Chow’s death and called him a “freedom fighter”.

“Today we mourn the loss of the freedom fighter in HK. We will not leave anyone behind – what we start together, we finish together. Given the losses suffered by HK society in the past month, the gov must pay the price,” he tweeted.

Chow fell from the third floor to the second floor of a parking garage in the Tseung Kwan O neighborhood while police worked nearby to disperse protesters. Hong Kong is bracing for a weekend of rallies that have been planned in areas across the city, beginning Friday.

The death comes amid a week of violence that saw an outspoken politician stabbed while campaigning, raising concerns about whether the city will be able to hold upcoming district council elections. The lawmaker, Junius Ho – known for his inflammatory comments against protesters and pro-democracy politicians – suffered only minor injuries.

On Thursday, the government’s Electoral Affairs Commission issued an appeal for the “public to keep calm and return to rationality” ahead of the vote scheduled for November 24. “The community is also urged to stop all threats and violence to support the holding of election in a peaceful and orderly manner,” it said.

Updated: November 8, 2019 12:47 PM

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