FILE PHOTO: A student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology holds up a sign during a forum on fellow injured student Chow in Hong Kong, China, November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
HONG KONG (Reuters) – A student at a Hong Kong university who fell during protests at the weekend died early on Friday morning, marking the first student death during the anti-government demonstrations that have roiled the city and setting the stage for fresh unrest.
The Hospital Authority confirmed that Chow Tsz-lok, 22, had died of injuries early on Friday morning. He was a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and was on a two-year undergraduate course at the computer science department.
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 circumstances of how Chow received his injuries were unclear but police said he was believed to have fallen from one floor to another in a parking lot during weekend crowd dispersal operations in a district east of the Kowloon peninsula.
Many demonstrators had thronged the hospital over this week to pray for Chow and also staged rallies at universities across the former British colony.
Chow’s death is expected to spark fresh protests and fuel anger and resentment against the police, who are already under immense pressure amid accusations of excessive force as the city grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
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 the biggest challenge for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.
Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalized 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.
Notices circulated on social media said students planned a march on Friday at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Reporting by Jessie Pang, Anne Marie Roantree, Clare Jim, Felix Tam, Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez; Raju Gopalakrishnan