HONG KONG: Thousands of Hong Kongers held vigils on Friday night for a student who died from a fall during recent protester clashes with police, triggering renewed violence.

Although the precise chain of events leading to 22-year-old Alex Chow’s fall last weekend is unclear and disputed, his death on Friday morning was the first student fatality during five months of demonstrations.

Protesters have made alleged police brutality one of their movement’s rallying cries and have seized on the death.

At the spot where Chow fell, thousands queued for hours in snaking lines to lay flowers, light candles and write condolence messages.

Activists also blocked roads and trashed subway station entrances, sparking cat and mouse confrontations with the police in multiple neighbourhoods.

In one incident, a group of outnumbered officers were surrounded in Yau Ma Tei district, forcing one to fire a warning shot, a police source said.

The death sent tensions soaring once more in a city reeling from five months of political chaos.

“Today we mourn the loss of a freedom fighter in Hong Kong,” Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy campaigner, said on Twitter.

“The atmosphere in Hong Kong is like a ticking bomb,” added Lo Kin-hei, a local pro-democracy councillor and activist. “HKers don’t trust the police will give us the truth.”

Police have repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing in relation to Chow’s death.

The lead officer in the case, Superi­nten­dent Ewing Wu, again insisted on Friday that police were not at fault.

“As for the allegations that police chased the deceased or that we pushed him and caused him to fall, the police hereby make a solemn statement again that nothing of the kind happened,” Wu told reporters.

Chow was taken to hospital early on Monday morning following clashes between police and protesters in the middle-class district of Tseung Kwan O. He died on Friday morning after failing to emerge from a coma.

He had been found lying unconscious in a pool of blood inside a multi-storey car park that police had fired tear gas towards.

Protesters had been hurling objects from the building, in the type of confrontation that has become routine. The car park has become a makeshift memorial with mourners laying down a growing sea of white flowers, sticky-note messages and paper cranes.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019