HONG KONG • Protesters gathered across Hong Kong to mourn a university undergraduate who died yesterday after falling in a carpark during pro-democracy demonstrations this week, a death that could yet trigger more unrest.
Mr Chow Tsz Lok, who studied at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, fell on Monday from the third to the second floor of a parking space when protesters were being dispersed by police.
It was the first student death in months of rallies.
Mr Chow, 22, died on graduation day for many students. His death is likely to fuel anger at police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the Chinese-ruled city grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
The university's students yesterday trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, part of a franchise perceived to be pro-Beijing. "Condemn police brutality," they wrote on the restaurant's glass wall.
Yesterday night, hundreds of students, most in masks and carrying candles, lined up in silence at the university to lay white flowers in tribute after gatherings by students at universities across the former British colony.
Thousands also left flowers at the spot where he fell at the carpark in Tseung Kwan O, to the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Some people initiated a chant of "Hong Kong people, revenge" but were stopped by others saying: "We are not here to protest."
In the shopping district of Causeway Bay, hundreds lined the streets in silence before some of them started shouting abuse at "black police", referring to perceived brutality.
In the densely populated Kowloon suburb of Mong Kok, hundreds shouted "Stand with Hong Kong" and "Hong Kong people, revenge".
Mr Chow's friend and fellow student Ben, 25, said the computer science undergraduate was sporty and liked playing netball and basketball. "I hope he can rest in peace. I really miss him," he told Reuters in tears.
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.
The protests were ignited by a now-scrapped extradition Bill allowing people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Two pro-Beijing newspapers ran full-page ads, commissioned by "a group of Hong Kong people", calling for a postponement of the lowest-tier district council elections set for Nov 24, a move that would infuriate those calling for democracy.
Since June, protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalised banks, stores and metro stations. Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in some cases, live ammunition.
In June, Mr Marco Leung, 35, fell to his death from construction scaffolding after unfurling banners against the extradition Bill. Several young people who have taken their own lives have been linked to the protests.
The university called for an independent investigation, saying an ambulance was blocked by police cars, causing a delay of 20 minutes in the rescue operation. Police have denied blocking an ambulance.
The government expressed "great sorrow and regret". A police spokesman, tears in her eyes, said officers would find out the truth as soon as possible and urged the public to be "calm and rational".
The carpark management said it would release closed-circuit television footage as soon as possible.
Protests scheduled over the weekend include rallies in shopping malls, some of which have previously descended into chaos. Protesters have also called for a general strike next Monday morning.