Home Central Asia Hong Kong vigils for dead student turn to street clashes

Hong Kong vigils for dead student turn to street clashes

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HONG KONG: Candlelight Hong Kong vigils mourning a student who died on Friday (Nov 8) after a high fall during a anti-government rally quickly spiralled into street fires and cat-and-mouse clashes between protesters and police.

The centre of violence appeared to be on Nathan Road, in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, one of the most densely populated locations in the world, where activists built barricades and trashed an entrance to the metro station.

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Police used a robot to try to detonate a suspected explosive device on a side street after at least three blasts in the area amid a standoff with petrol-bomb throwing protesters for hours.

Alex Chow Tsz-lok, who studied at the University of Science and Technology (UST), fell on Monday from the third to the second floor of a parking lot when protesters were being dispersed by police. It was the first student death in months of rallies.

Chow, 22, died on graduation day for many UST students. His death is likely to fuel anger at police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the former British colony grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.

READ: Hong Kong student who fell during weekend protests dies

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UST students trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, part of a franchise perceived to be pro-Beijing, and rallies are expected across the territory over the weekend.

"Condemn police brutality," they wrote on the restaurant's glass wall.

Hundreds of students, most in masks and carrying candles, then lined up in silence at UST to lay white flowers in tribute.

Thousands also left flowers at the spot where he fell at the car park in Tseung Kwan O, to the east of the Kowloon peninsula, occasionally singing hymns.

In the shopping district of Causeway Bay, hundreds lined the streets in silence, with the eerie hum of the city in the background.

Then the mood changed.

People started shouting abuse at "black police", referring to perceived brutality, and blocked streets in Causeway Bay.

READ: Hong Kong girds for more protests after student dies

READ: China calls Hong Kong protesters 'mobsters' after stabbing

In Mong Kok, dozens of activists barricaded off Nathan Road, which leads to the harbour to the south. They vandalised a closed metro entrance, throwing in bricks and pouring oil through the metal grill, and destroyed a phone booth in a small explosion. There were clashes and fires in the New Territories town of Sha Tin.

In Tseung Kwan O, where people had been leaving flowers and silently crying for hours, people screamed encouragement and abuse after a traffic light was set on fire.

Chow's friend and fellow UST student, Ben, 25, said the computer science undergraduate liked playing netball and basketball.

"We played netball together for a year," he told Reuters in tears. "I hope he can rest in peace. I really miss him."

An electricity box is on fire during a rally in Tseung Kwan O district in Hong Kong on Nov 8, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE

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

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.

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

READ: Knife-wielding man attacks Hong Kong pro-Beijing lawmaker

A memorial for Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student Alex Chow, 22, is seen ahead of a student march. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

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