Hong Kong’s police have said they will recommend a coroner’s court investigate the death of a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student after he sustained a serious brain injury near a clearance operation of a protest.

Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old second-year HKUST student, fell from Sheung Tak Estate car park’s third floor onto the second floor in the early hours of Monday in Tseung Kwan O. He was left in critical condition and died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Friday.

Chow Tsz-lok
Chow Tsz-lok.

At a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Senior Superintendent (Operations) of Kowloon East Region Suzette Foo appeared emotional as she 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: “All information will be revealed publicly at court providing there is a coroner’s court hearing,” she added.

Suzette Foo
Suzette Foo. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The HKUST president demanded a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Chow’s fall, as well as an explanation over the ambulance delay. Some netizens have alleged that the police blocked the ambulance from reaching Chow – a claim which the force has denied.

CCTV footage

Foo said they were handling nuisance cases in Tseung Kwan O from 10:30pm on Sunday. Police entered the car park at 11:06pm on a patrol and left the facility at 11:20pm.

She said police entered the car park again at 1:04am to disperse protesters, who had allegedly thrown objects at officers from inside. She said officers only become aware of Chow’s fall after seeing firefighters treating him.

Superintendent (Operations) of Crime Kowloon East Regional Headquarters Ewing Wu said that, according to CCTV footage obtained by the police, Chow left his home alone at 11:54pm.

Alex Chow whereabouts
Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Police were dealing with protesters at around 12:23am, Wu said. Chow was seen at the Beverly Garden mall at 12:19am and 12:23am alone, and entered the car park via a footbridge of Beverly Garden at 12:26am, he added.

Wu said Chow was seen walking inside the car park alone at 12:38am, 12:44am, 12:45am, 12:47am, and 12:49am. At 1am, Chow walked back to Beverly Garden via the footbridge and then returned to the car park a minute later. He was last seen at 1:02am, before he fell.

Wu said Chow was not in contact with any police officer during this period.

Ewing Wu
Ewing Wu. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Police fired tear gas outside the car park at 12:41am. Firefighters entered the car park at 12:55am in response to a call about a fire.

Two people make an appearance at 12:46am on the third floor of the car park in security footage publicised on Wednesday by Link Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the building.

Responding to unverified claims that one of the individuals was an undercover police officer, Wu said there were no such officers operating in the Tseung Kwan O area that night. There were also no plainclothes officers inside the car park at the time of the incident, he added.

“We believe that neither of the two people [who appeared in the surveillance footage] was Chow,” he said.

car park
Two people appearing at 12:46am on the third floor of the car park. Photo: Screenshot.

The police were asked at the press conference on how they could convince the public that they would conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. Wu responded by saying the investigation would focus solely on the cause of Chow’s death.

“We will fully investigate whether the police have any responsibility to bear over this incident,” he said. “We will not rule out any possibility.”

Ambulance blocked

Fire Services Department Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer (Kowloon East) Leung Kwok-lai said five ambulances were deployed in response to various incidents in the area around the time of Chow’s fall.

Leung Kwok-lai
Leung Kwok-lai. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Leung said ambulance “A344″ was assigned to Chow at 1:11am, but was blocked owing to a traffic jam involving several private vehicles. It only reached Chow at 1:30am.

Chow was transported onto ambulance”A344” at 1:41am, he said, adding that the vehicle’s staff had no contact with police at any point.

Leung said ambulance “A492” was called to handle a person experiencing breathing difficulties at Kwong Ying House at 1:02am.

After a request from residents at 1:10am, “A492” switched to handle a different case at Kwong Lung House and an additional ambulance was assigned to handle the original case, he said. Ambulance “A492” reportedly took its patient to Tseung Kwan O Hospital at 1:54am.

ambulance police vans Tseung Kwan O
An ambulance blocked by police vans in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Telegram.

Leung said ambulance “A346” was assigned to handle another case involving a patient with breathing difficulties; however, it was prevented from driving along the intersection of Tong Chun Street and Tong Ming Street due to multiple police vehicles blocking the way and tear gas being fired nearby.

Paramedics of ambulance “A346” waited until the situation outside had calmed down and walked to Kwong Lung House to handle its case after a request from a volunteer first-aider. They found that the case was handled by medics of ambulance “A492,” and went on to deal with the original case involving a person with breathing difficulties. The patient ultimately did not require medical help, Leung said.

Two other ambulances – “A237” and “A391” – did not handle any patients.

Explanation needed

HKUST President Wei Shyy said in an email to students that the university’s community was deeply saddened by Chow’s death and will provide all necessary support and assistance to his family.

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“We demand a thorough and independent investigation into the death of our student,” he wrote. “We demand clarifications from all parties – especially from the police, regarding the cause of the delay in those most critical moments that might have saved a young life. We will be outraged if there is no acceptable explanation offered to us.”

He said a platform would be launched for all community members to submit evidence related to the case to university authorities.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.