November 13, 2019

Hong Kong Student Dies From Fall After Police Clash With Protesters

Hong Kong Student Dies From Fall After Police Clash With Protesters

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong student died on Friday after falling earlier this week from a parking garage where police officers clashed with protesters, a development likely to escalate public fury after months of antigovernment demonstrations.

Chow Tsz-lok, who was a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, sustained head and pelvis injuries when he fell one story early Monday morning. His death on Friday morning was confirmed by the city’s Hospital Authority.

Anger with the police has run high following the force’s widespread use of tear gas, pepper spray and batons on demonstrators over 23 weeks of protest. A key demand of the protest movement, which began over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, has been an independent investigation into the police’s use of force.

Thousands of people, including police officers, have been injured since the protests began in June, but despite the rising violence, no one has been killed in the clashes up until now. The police shot and wounded a demonstrator on Oct. 1 and another three days later in what they described as acts of self-defense.

In addition, several protesters have killed themselves this summer.

Wei Shyy, the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, asked for a moment of silence for Mr. Chow during a graduation ceremony Friday, and was seen wiping away tears before resuming the event.

The school’s student union called for a protest on the campus starting at 1 p.m., and others circulated plans to gather at the parking garage where he died in the evening.

Mr. Chow, 22, could be the first death as a direct result of the confrontations between the police and protesters. But what exactly led to his fall is still unclear.

Some protesters have speculated that tear gas or an effort to flee police officers were factors. But security camera video released Wednesday by the building owner did not show police officers or significant amounts of tear gas in the parking garage before Mr. Chow fell.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said Tuesday that since the case of the student’s fall was still under investigation, she would not “haphazardly jump to conclusions.” She offered her “deepest sympathies” to him.

She also urged residents to stay away from the protests “in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings when the police are enforcing the law.”

Suzette Foo, a senior superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force, said earlier this week that police officers had fired 44 rounds of tear gas, 11 rubber bullets, three beanbag rounds and one sponge grenade during operations in the Tseung Kwan O district near where Mr. Chow fell.

“The sole purpose was to disperse those protesters who had assembled, thrown hard objects and attacked the police in that area,” she said.

Video from i-Cable News, a Hong Kong broadcaster, showed the police firing rounds of tear gas up into an elevated parking garage from which protesters had thrown traffic cones down.

Ms. Foo said the point where the student fell was about 130 yards from where police officers fired tear gas that night. She did not deny the possibility that tear gas could have contributed to the incident, but said there was only a small amount in the air when rescuers responded.

She also denied that the police had interfered with emergency responders who were treating Mr. Chow or had barred an ambulance from reaching him.

An emergency responder, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the incident, said officers tried to make rescuers leave as they were treating the injured student. They also blocked an ambulance from approaching, the emergency responder said. Video of the scene showed that another ambulance eventually took Mr. Chow to a hospital.

The Fire Services Department said however that one of its ambulances was blocked by private traffic, not the police, and firefighters aiding Mr. Chow did not notice any police officers asking them to leave, the Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK reported.

On Tuesday night, the police used tear gas again in the area on residents who had gathered near the parking garage to protest.

Mr. Chow’s fall followed a weekend that was punctuated by violence. Riot police charged into multiple shopping malls where protesters had gathered Sunday evening.

At one mall in the Quarry Bay area of Hong Kong Island, a man apparently opposed to the protests slashed a man and a woman with a knife and bit off part of the ear of a district council member who attempted to restrain him. Bystanders beat the man before the police arrived.

Pro-democracy legislators said the district council member, Andrew Chiu, had surgery to reattach his ear on Monday. The man who was accused of attacking him was charged on Monday with assault causing actual body harm, the police said.

Elaine Yu contributed reporting.

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