Radical students at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology vandalised their president’s residence and at least three cafeterias on Friday over the death of a peer who fell from a car park near police operations. A campus Starbucks outlet and a Bank of China branch were also trashed.
The violent acts happened after hundreds of students gathered at 1pm for five minutes of silence for Chow Tsz-lok, who died in the morning after suffering severe brain injuries and spending four days in hospital.
Students at HKUST’s piazza in the afternoon chanted slogans demanding that president Wei Shyy condemn police violence.
The university cancelled classes and a graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, after an emotional Shyy announced Chow’s death at about 10am at a morning session where a moment of silence was observed.
At about 2pm, students gathered outside Shyy’s residence on campus, sprayed slogans on its front door, and placed posters on its outer walls. They then went to a Starbucks and damaged some plates, cups and fridges in the cafe, before pushing over chairs and tables at two restaurants and spraying slogans on walls.
A Bank of China branch on the campus was also damaged.
Some students and graduates brought white flowers in memory of Chow. A year two student, surnamed Yee, 18, said she was shocked and saddened, as she criticised police’s use of tear gas late on Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday in Tseung Kwan O, where the incident happened.
“I really hope [Shyy] can say something to support us [students],” she said, weeping.
“One statement by him as the president has way more influence than hundreds of words from us. I just hope Shyy can, if not condemn the whole police force, at least condemn its violation of guidelines.”
An HKUST year four student who was Chow’s primary school classmate said that although he understood that Chow’s situation had deteriorated over the past few days, he still felt heavy-hearted.
The student, surnamed Wong, said Chow was a hardworking and positive person in primary school, adding that his death was a regretful loss. He also demanded that Shyy condemn police violence.
“I couldn’t have imagined something like this would happen to one of my classmates. He’s someone I knew, why would he suddenly get injured, and then suddenly pass away? There are just too many coincidences.”
The protests were sparked by the death of Chow Tsz-lok, a second year computer science undergraduate at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Chow was believed to have fallen from the third to second floor of a car park in Tseung Kwan O, as police carried out a dispersal operation with tear gas nearby in the early hours of Monday morning.
The 22-year-old had been in a coma after being sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Two operations were carried out to stop the swelling in his head, but reportedly failed to help reduce the damage.
His condition took a turn for the worse on Thursday night before he succumbed to cardiac arrest the following morning, a source said. The hospital confirmed he died at 8.09am, but did not state the cause of death.
Security camera footage released on Wednesday by Link Reit, owner of the Sheung Tak Estate car park, did not appear to capture Chow’s fall, as the cameras rotated during their operation. The view was also partly blocked by parked vehicles.
Sunday’s clash in Tseung Kwan O, which extended into the small hours of the following day, was sparked by a group of people trying to disrupt a police officer’s wedding held in a hotel in the district. It was unclear whether Chow was in the group, why he was at the car park and what exactly caused him to fall.
Questions also remained over whether there was any delay in paramedics reaching Chow, as it took 19 minutes for them to arrive, seven minutes longer than the service pledge of being at a destination within 12 minutes from the time of an emergency call.