Hong Kong Student's Death Fuels Anger Ahead of Weekend Protests

(Bloomberg) -- 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 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 8:09 a.m.

While some demonstrators have committed suicide during the prolonged period of protests, nobody has been confirmed dead as a direct result of a clash between police and demonstrators. Anger over police tactics -- and injured 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.

Protesters held a memorial for Chow before a lunchtime rally in the city center Friday, and calls for "flash mob"-style 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 fueled months of protest.

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, which reported the death earlier Friday. 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 Sparked by a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, the protest movement expanded to include calls for greater democracy, morphing into the biggest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.

Hong Kong's government said it was "deeply saddened" and offered condolences to Chow's family in a statement responding to media inquiries about his death.

'Freedom Fighter'

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, currently scheduled for Nov. 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.

(Updates with protester comment in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Josie Wong in Hong Kong at jwong836@bloomberg.net;Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, ;Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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