Thousands gathered outside the government headquarters on Saturday to mourn a 22-year-old student who died after sustaining serious injuries near a police clearance of a protest.
Organisers said around 100,000 people attended the vigil at Tamar Park in Admiralty from 6pm, which included speeches and prayers. Police have prohibited multiple gatherings in the past few months, however, Saturday’s event received a letter of no objection.
Alex Chow Tsz-lok died on Friday morning from a cardiac arrest after sustaining head injuries from a fall at a Tseung Kwan O carpark in the early hours of Monday.
On the night in question, police fired multiple rounds of tear gas nearby to disperse protesters, but the force on Friday denied having anything to do with Chow’s fall. Despite the release of some CCTV footage from inside the car park, the cause of Chow’s fall remains unclear.
At the peaceful Tamar Park vigil, many wore black or pinned black ribbons on their clothing. Ms Chan, a 37-year-old public relations worker, told HKFP that she chose to attend Saturday’s rally to mourn the death of Chow.
“Everyone in Hong Kong is very sad, and I think the police and the government should be held accountable and give us an explanation [as to] why a young man who is strong, athletic – we know he played netball – why he would suffer so many injuries from a one-floor jump. It doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
Chan added that the police should release all body camera footage from officers in the area on the night of Chow’s death.
Asked about the relationship between the public and the police, Chan – who has participated in the protests for over five months – said it had deteriorated.
“I think there’s no trust on both ends. It’s pretty obvious that frontline officers are very hostile to the public,” she said.
Hong Kong has been shaken by mass demonstrations triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China – a jurisdiction with a poor human rights record. The movement has since evolved into wider calls for democratic reform, accountability for the police’s handling of the crisis, as well as other demands.
Ms Leung, a 40-year-old office worker, told HKFP she was saddened and angered by the news of Chow’s passing.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” she said. “I want to know the truth. Even though the police tried to say it had nothing to do with them, I don’t believe it, I don’t buy it at all. They have really lost their credibility.”
Leung, who was handing out black ribbons in mourning, said she would like to see an independent commission of inquiry, led by reputable overseas experts, to investigate all major incidents since the start of the protests in June.
“Otherwise, I don’t think Hong Kong people would buy what [local authorities] have to say,” she said.
Riot police detained a man dressed in black outside the park near the start of the vigil but retreated soon afterwards upon being heckled by an angry crowd. Officers returned to Admiralty shortly after at 9pm and displayed a blue flag warning those nearby that force may be used.
The disputes between riot police and protesters outside Tamar Park earlier, as they arrived to stop and search young men wearing black, but eventually left the scene.#hongkong pic.twitter.com/vjuKHGpAvf
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 9, 2019
Vigils commemorating Chow became flashpoints on Friday, with police firing a live warning round in Mong Kok and tear gas being deployed in multiple neighbourhoods.
Some protesters have called for an escalation in tactics in response to Chow’s death, such as a general strike as early as Monday.