World

HK student death to trigger more unrest

By AAP Newswire

A student at a Hong Kong university who fell during protests at the weekend has died, the first student death in months of anti-government demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city that is likely to be a trigger for fresh unrest.

Chow Tsz-lok, 22, an undergraduate student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, died of injuries sustained early on Monday.

The circumstances of how he was injured were unclear but authorities said he was believed to have fallen from the third to the second floor in a parking lot when police dispersed crowds in a district east of the Kowloon peninsula.

Chow's death is expected to spark fresh protests and fuel anger and resentment against the police, who are already under pressure amid accusations of excessive force as the city grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.

Demonstrators had thronged the hospital this week to pray for Chow, leaving flowers and hundreds of get-well messages on walls and notice boards inside the building. Students also staged rallies at universities across the former British colony.

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to press for greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.

The protests, ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill for people to be sent to mainland China for trial, have evolved into wider calls for democracy, posing one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.

Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalised banks, stores and metro stations, while police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in some cases, live ammunition in scenes of chaos.

In June, Marco Leung, 35, fell to his death from construction scaffolding after unfurling banners against the extradition bill. Several young people who have taken their own lives in recent months have been linked to the protests.

Chow, an active netball and basketball player according to his university peers, had been studying a two-year undergraduate degree in computer science. Chow's death came on graduation day for many students at his university, located in the city's Clear Water Bay district.

Hundreds of students, some in their black graduation gowns and many wearing now banned face masks, held a silent gathering in the main piazza of the campus after receiving their degrees. Some were in tears.

They later moved to a stage where the graduation ceremonies had been held. Chanting "Stand with Hong Kong" and "Five demands and not one less," they spraypainted Chow's name and pinned photos and signs of him on nearby walls.

Hong Kong's government said in a statement that it expressed "great sorrow and regret" and that the crime unit was conducting a "comprehensive investigation" into Chow's death.

"I am very sad over Chow's death. If we don't come out now, more people might need to sacrifice (themselves) in the future," said Peggy, an 18-year-old university student at the University of Hong Kong.