Hong Kong student’s death first to be linked to police protest actions

HKUST is in mourning after the death was announced at a graduation ceremony  

November 8, 2019
Hong Kong protests 2019
Source: iStock

Hong Kong’s university community has been rocked by what is reported to be the first death connected to police tactics against ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations, which have continued to grow in intensity since June.  

Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old computer science student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, suffered a cardiac arrest on the morning of 8 November after fighting for his life for several days. Earlier in the week, he had allegedly fallen from a height and sustained catastrophic brain injury near the site of police tear gassing in Tseung Kwan O, the closest urban area to the rural HKUST campus. 

Mr Chow’s death was “what is believed to be the first fatality directly linked to police action over the ongoing anti-government unrest”, reported RTHK, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster. 

HKUST president Wei Shyy announced the student’s death at a graduation ceremony a few hours later. He removed his cap, called for a minute of silence, and was visibly upset as he wiped tears from his eyes. He left the event early to visit Mr Chow’s family at the hospital.   

Students on campus – either in the masks and black T-shirts of the protest movement, or still in their graduation gowns – bowed their heads to pay respect. 

HKUST issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened” and would provide psychological counselling to students in need. Perhaps in anticipation of renewed campus protests, the university urged “all students to stay calm and exercise restraint at this difficult time, to avoid any further conflicts or tragedies from happening”.  

When Mr Chow was first injured, Professor Shyy visited him in the hospital and promised to condemn police actions if it was proven that guidelines for using tear gas had been violated. He is among several Hong Kong university presidents who have spoken out against recent violence.  

Mr Chow’s death will undoubtedly amplify calls for the government to set up a commission to investigate the police, one of the five main demands of the protest movement. 

The details of exactly how Mr Chow sustained the injury have not been confirmed. However, it is known that 48 minutes passed between the time that an ambulance was called to the car park where Mr Chow was injured and his arrival at hospital, the fire department said. 

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com  

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