The death of the student at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Friday (Nov 8) is likely to fuel anger with the police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the territory grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
Chow Tsz-lok, a second-year Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student, fell from the Sheung Tak car park’s third floor onto the second floor in the early hours of Monday in Tseung Kwan O near an area of confrontation between protesters and police. The 22-year-old was suffered a severe brain injury.
At a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Senior Superintendent (Operations) of Kowloon East Region Suzette Foo expressed deep condolences to Chow’s family and friends on behalf of the police.
Foo said the police will investigate the incident and recommend a coroner’s court hearing. She added, “All information about this death will be heard in open court.”
On Wednesday, CCTV footage was released from six security cameras between around 11pm on Sunday and 2am on Monday. The videos did not capture the student falling.
Security camera footage showed Chow leaving his Tseung Kwan O home at 11.54pm on Sunday. He was alone.
He was then seen walking into the car park alone at 12.26am and was last seen at 1.02am, when he walked alone from a ramp on the second floor of the car park to the third floor.
Asked if police had responsibility for Chow’s death, Superintendent Ewing Wu Ka-yan said: “That is one of the main purposes of an investigation into his death. We will definitely launch a thorough and in-depth investigation and pass it to the coroner to decide.”
“Clips showed that between 12.26am and 12.49am, Chow was alone and wandering about. He used a mobile phone but did not have physical contact with anyone,” Wu said, adding that no undercover officers were deployed in the district that night.
There remain different versions over the cause of the incident including one claim from a first-aider, that Chow was fleeing from tear gas fired by the police. The force denied that claim. They also denied rumours that Chow was fleeing from officers chasing after him.
There was no tear gas visible in the security camera footage. The footage also did not appear to show police chasing Chow.
Protests Escalated Everywhere
Hours after news broke of Chow’s death, protests broke out in Central, Mong Kok and Kwun Tong. There were clashes and fires in the New Territories town of Sha Tin.
The centre of violence appeared to be on Nathan Road, in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok. Protesters built barricades, vandalized a closed metro entrance, throwing in bricks and pouring oil through the metal grill, and destroyed a phone booth in a small explosion.
Police used a robot to try to detonate a suspected explosive device on a side street after at least three blasts in the area.
The protesters also went on a rampage on campus. UST students trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, part of a franchise perceived to be pro-Beijing.
Hundreds of students, most in masks and carrying candles, lined up in silence at UST to lay white flowers in tribute. Hundreds of people did that too at Causeway Bay.
Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to seek greater democracy, among other demands.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
Rallies are expected across the territory over the weekend.
Hong Kong protesters are planning a 24th straight weekend of rallies, including inside shopping malls across the Chinese-ruled city on Sunday (Nov 10).
Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday morning and for people to block public transport.