A Hong Kong student who sustained head injuries when he fell during clashes with police died yesterday, triggering a fresh wave of outrage from the pro-democracy movement and fears of more violent unrest.
Although the precise chain of events leading to 22-year-old Alex Chow’s (周梓樂) fall are unclear and disputed, his death is the first student fatality during five months of demonstrations.
Protesters, who have made alleged police brutality one of their movement’s rallying cries, responded to the death of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student with tearful vigils last night and calls for fresh rallies over the weekend.
“Today we mourn the loss of a freedom fighter in Hong Kong,” prominent Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said on Twitter.
“The atmosphere in Hong Kong is like a ticking bomb,” Hong Kong Southern District Councilor Lo Kin-hei (羅健熙) said. “HKers don’t trust the police will give us the truth.”
Police have repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing in relation to Chow’s death.
Kowloon East Crime Regional Headquarters Superintendent Ewing Wu (胡家欣), the lead officer in the case, insisted that police were not at fault.
“As for the allegations that police chased the deceased or that we pushed him and caused him to fall, the police hereby make a solemn statement again that nothing of the kind happened,” Wu told reporters.
Chow was taken to hospital early on Monday morning following clashes between police and protesters in Tseung Kwan O.
He was certified dead by the hospital yesterday morning after failing to emerge from a coma.
Chow had been found lying unconscious in a pool of blood inside a multistory car park that police had fired tear gas at, as protesters hurled objects from the building.
The car park last night became a makeshift memorial, with hundreds lining up to lay flowers, light candles and stick multicolored notes on the wall.
“I think there should be an independent inquiry commission to investigate his death and other incidents that happened during the movement,” a 23-year-old student surnamed Ho said.
Wu yesterday confirmed that police had entered the car park twice to contain the protesters, but that officers were not inside when Chow fell.
She and a police spokeswoman rejected accusations that officers delayed paramedics getting to the scene.
“At this stage, we are investigating the cause of Chow’s death instead of investigating police officers,” Wu said.
The Hong Kong government expressed “great sorrow and regret” over Chow’s passing.
Asked about Chow’s death, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) told reporters in Beijing: “This isn’t a diplomatic question, so I suggest you ask the relevant government department. I will just say this: Stopping the violence, eliminating disorder and restoring order is Hong Kong’s most urgent task.”
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