Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters hold vigil to mourn student's death

Anti-government protesters attending a vigil to mourn a student's death, in Hong Kong on March 8, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hundreds of black-clad Hong Kong protesters, holding candles, returned on Sunday (March 8) to the parking lot where a student fell to his death in November, vowing to continue their fight for greater democracy in the Chinese-ruled city.

The death of Mr Chow Tsz-lok, 22, who fell from the third to the second floor in a parking lot in the eastern Tseung Kwan O district as police cleared crowds in the area, was the catalyst for some of the most intense clashes since the protests escalated in June last year.

Fears over the coronavirus have reduced the scale and frequency of protests this year, but there have been violent demonstrations on some weekends in a sign the pro-democracy movement remains active.

On Sunday evening, protesters, mostly in trademark black clothing and surgical masks, laid down white flowers, origami cranes and messages on coloured post-it notes at a makeshift altar where placards read "Keep the heat; Fight until the end".

One protester was waving a "Liberate Hong Kong" black flag, while a banner that read "murderer" was hung up.

There was a heavy riot police presence nearby and at least one arrest was made.

"It's very touching. When I came here half an hour ago, I almost cried, because I didn't expect so many people would come today," said 22-year-old computer programmer Sean Chow, who is not related to the student who died.

"(His death) means something that is unresolved and something that needs to be fully investigated and I believe all the people here want an answer. It's an absolute tragedy."

Earlier on Sunday, Hong Kong police said they arrested 17 people, aged between 21 and 53, during an overnight raid of 22 flats in relation to a series of bomb plots between late January and early February.

Items including three homemade bombs, three electronic circuits and 2,600 kilograms of chemicals were found.

"In recent months Hong Kong has been faced with an ongoing... violent campaign designed to intimidate, in order to try to achieve political aims," senior bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau told reporters.

"It seems a potential tragedy has been averted."

Police said the bombs were intended to be used in public events and aimed at police officers.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China says it is committed to the arrangement and denies meddling.

It has accused foreign governments including the United States and Britain of inciting the unrest.

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