Police fire tear gas as Hong Kong vigils turn violent

Police fire tear gas as Hong Kong vigils turn violent

Hong Kong - Police dispersed crowds with tear gas late Friday as vigils and protests took place across Hong Kong over the death of 22-year-old Chow Tsz-lok, a student protester who fell from a car park near where police also used tear gas at an earlier anti-government demonstration.

Protesters and police officers have routinely been injured since demonstrations broke out in June, but no deaths had previously been directly connected to the clashes.

Chow's death early Friday inflamed citywide anger toward police, as many students believe he was running from officers when he fell. 

Peaceful vigils devolved into clashes as riot police arrived on scene and protesters responded aggressively, chanting "Murderers!" and hurling bricks and other objects at the officers. 

An officer in the Yau Ma Tei district reportedly fired a warning shot as the clashes escalated. According to the police force, "rioters" threw petrol bombs, set fire to an electrical box, and vandalised public property. 

Earlier Friday evening, thousands attended vigils in over a dozen locations across the semi-autonomous city, including at the car park where the incident happened. Mourners left white flowers, burned candles, and wrote messages for Chow and his family at the location where he was found by firefighters. 

Chow fell from the third to the second floor of the Sheung Tak Estate car park on Monday morning after clashes between protesters and police were dispersed with tear gas nearby, the South China Morning Post reported. 

Police said that Chow was found approximately 120 metres from the site where tear gas had been fired to disperse protesters in the area.

A service held at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUT), where Chow was a second year student, was presided over by Reverend Chu Yiu Ming.

Chu had been tried for his involvement in the 2014 Umbrella movement, when pro-democracy protesters occupied the city's Central district for 79 days. 

A moment of silence was observed at vigils citywide.

Earlier in the day, students marched to the residence of the HKUT president Wei Shyy, demanding that he condemn police violence against student protesters. Shyy later put out a statement calling for an independent inquiry into Chow's death. 

Shyy also demanded that police account for the 19 minute "delay" that followed firefighters' initial call for an ambulance. In a press conference on Friday police said the ambulance had been blocked due to "traffic."

"We demand clarifications from all parties, especially from the police,"  Shyy said. "We will be outraged if there is no acceptable explanation offered to us."

Earlier in the day, office workers held moments of silence in Hong Kong's downtown Central district, temporarily blocking traffic to honour 22-year-old Chow.

The Hong Kong protests erupted in June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China. The demands of the movement later grew to include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters.