Over 100 people gathered in Tseung Kwan O on Sunday to remember a student who died following a protest last year. Police warned those who showed up to commemorate Alex Chow that they may be violating the national security law after some chanted slogans.
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Chow’s death. Last November 8, he fell from a car park during a protest and sustained a head injury – he remained in a critical condition for four days and eventually suffered a cardiac arrest.
Earlier that day, police fired tear gas in Tseung Kwan O to clear anti-extradition law demonstrators.
Chow was found unconscious on the second floor of the car park. It remains unclear as to how he fell from the floor above, but police denied blocking an ambulance from accessing the scene and after footage emerged.
Since then, on the 8th day of every month, citizens have gathered regularly to leave flowers and share messages in honour of the 22-year-old.
Ahead the commemoration of the incident on Sunday evening, a banner that read “Just want to be happy” – a phrase which rhymes with Chow’s Chinese name “Tsz-lok” in Cantonese – was draped from a Tseung Kwan O footbridge at around 1pm.
However, it was immediately removed by police officers.
Citizens also mourned for Chow in other districts.
Netizens staged a “Southern District people have not forgotten about Tsz-lok” gathering at 3pm in Aberdeen. They observed a moment of silence and placed flowers near a fountain..
Student group Student Policism also set up street booths at 2pm despite advance warnings from police.
They collected origami cranes as a tribute.
Back in Tseung Kwan O, citizens laid flowers, lit candles and placed messages on the floor throughout the evening.
Next to a box of origami cranes, a mourner wrote a message to Chow: “Wish I could play a match with you” on a basketball.
Some also entered the car park and left white flowers on the second and third floors.
“Justice was yet done. We have never forgotten,” a note read.
The crowd observed a minute of silence at 8:09pm – the time when the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student was certified dead.
Dozens of police officers were deployed.
They warned the crowd against violating the social distancing measures that ban group gatherings of more than four people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They played the warning through a loudspeaker throughout the evening. Police dogs were also deployed to disperse the crowd.
Officers raised a purple flag, warning citizens they may be violating the national security law after someone chanted: “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” The slogan was declared by the government as pro-independence and therefore illegal under the Beijing-imposed legislation.
They also raised a blue flag, warning those gathered that it was an unlawful assembly.
According to police on Facebook, a man was arrested at around 6 pm on suspicion of damaging a wall in the Sheung Tak Estate car park. Separately, six people were ticketed for allegedly breaching the coronavirus public gathering restrictions.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.