This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Tens of thousands of people gathered across Hong Kong on Friday to mourn a 22-year-old student who died after falling from a multi-story parking garage after police fired tear gas at protesters on Sunday.
Many lit candles in memory of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student Chow Tsz-lok, while others held up his photograph at ceremonies in various locations across the city, including at the Tseung Kwan O parking garage where he died.
Amid growing public anger at police violence against the months-old anti-government protest movement, many have blamed Chow’s death on the police, after surveillance footage from the garage showed a man being chased and pushed by a larger man shortly before Chow fell.
As police turned up at the impromptu gatherings, protesters set up barricades and started fires, lobbing bricks and other projectiles at officers, hurling insults, and shouting slogans.
A live fire “warning” shot was reported in Yau Ma Tei, while tear gas was deployed in Aberdeen and Tsuen Wan districts, government broadcaster RTHK reported late on Friday.
“Protesters set an electrical control box outside Sheung Tak Plaza in Tseung Kwan O on fire,” the station reported. “The box emitted multiple bangs and spewed out a steady stream of black smoke, before firefighters arrived to douse the flames. A number of street lights subsequently went out.”
Crowds gathered in the downtown Central business district, the shopping districts of Causeway Bay and Tsimshatsui, in the New Territories town of Shatin, and Kwun Tong district, near the container port.
The city’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) responded by shutting down train services on several lines and through several major stations including Shatin, Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok.
Protesters are calling for a general strike on Nov. 11.
Staff and students mourn
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority confirmed on Friday that Chow Tsz-lok was pronounced dead at 8:09 a.m. following a cardiac arrest.
UST President Wei Shyy announced through tears that Friday’s scheduled graduation ceremony would be postponed, leading staff and students in a silent tribute to Chow. Classes were also canceled.
“We have just received confirmation of the sad news that our student Chow Tsz-lok has died,” Shyy said. “Please would everyone stand, so that we may mourn him together.”
In a letter to students and faculty, Shyy described Chow as a “diligent and helpful person” and extended heartfelt condolences to his family.
He also called for an in-depth and independent investigation into the incident, citing video clips that showed police vehicles preventing an ambulance from getting to Chow on the night he fell.
He said ambulance crews were forced to walk to the scene of Chow’s fall, causing a delay of 20 minutes in medical treatment, and called on police and officials for an explanation.
Later on Friday, students left slogans and graffiti on the stage to reflect growing anger and suspicion of police involvement in Chow’s death.
Some were clad in black clothes and face masks, and chanted protest slogans before marching to Shyy’s residence on campus, where some put up posters and others broke glass.
The campus branch of Starbucks was also left damaged, and the Bank of China branch was flooded with a fire hose, because they are viewed as being supportive of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong police.
‘Police not there’: spokeswoman
Police spokeswoman Suzette Foo had previously said that police hadn’t arrived at the parking garage until after Chow fell, but admitted on Friday that officers had in fact entered the building at around 11.30 p.m., but she said that this was long before Chow’s fall.
“Some people online are saying that police chased the deceased in the parking garage, and even pushed him, but no such thing took place,” Foo told reporters.
Local commanders have denied that there were any undercover officers in the building, but were unable to confirm whether any off-duty officers were there.
Democracy activist Joshua Wong said Chow’s death had highlighted a new demand of protesters: the reform of the police force.
“Reforming the Hong Kong police force has become a big demand in the society,” he told journalists. “Obviously, the Hong Kong police force has to be accountable for Chow’s death.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on Chow’s death.
“What I want to say is that at present, the most urgent thing for Hong Kong is to stop violence and restore order,” he told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Friday.
Rights groups have called for a full investigation into Chow’s death, while police have said they will fully cooperate with an inquest.
Lawmakers arrested, warned
Meanwhile, police arrested a pro-democracy lawmaker and gave notice to several others that they would be arrested for violating a law governing the operations of the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
“Legislative Councilor Eddie Chu was arrested tonight at 2215,” a statement on his Facebook page said.
“It is understood that Chu was arrested for violating section 19 of Legislative Council（Powers and Privileges）Ordinance on 11th May during an illegal meeting of the ‘Fugitive Offenders Bill’ committee chaired by Abraham Shek,” it said.
Pro-democracy lawmakers Ray Chan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Gary Fan, Au Nok-hin, Leung Yiu-chung, and Kwok Ka-ki are also on notice that they will be arrested after scuffles broke out in LegCo after rival committees formed to consider changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws.
Plans by chief executive Carrie Lam to make amendments to extradition laws that would allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China sparked mass street protests, soon followed by widespread public anger at police use of force against peaceful demonstrators and demands for fully democratic elections.
Lam has since formally withdrawn the hated amendments, but has stopped short of meeting protesters’ demands for an amnesty for arrestees, an independent public inquiry into police violence and abuse of power, an end to the description of protesters as “rioters,” and fully democratic elections to LegCo and for her replacement.
Reported by Man Hoi-tsan, Lu Xi, and Lau Siu-fung for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.