HONG KONG -- A university student in Hong Kong on Friday was pronounced dead from injuries he suffered after a fall during anti-government demonstrations. This marks the first fatality stemming from direct clashes between police and protesters.
After the news broke out, hundreds of people gathered in the city's financial district to mourn for the student during the lunch hour. Online posters are calling on people to join vigils in more than 20 locations across Hong Kong at 8 p.m.
A spokesperson at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where the student was treated confirmed the news. He died around 8 a.m., the spokesperson said.
Local media reported earlier that the student sustained serious brain injuries after falling from the third floor of a parking garage late Sunday night as officers used tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the satellite town of Tseung Kwan O.
The student was identified as Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old computer science major at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. A second-year undergraduate, Chow underwent two brain surgeries starting Monday. Additional details were not available.
A police spokeswoman confirmed during a news briefing Tuesday evening that officers fired 44 rounds of tear gas near the venue, but said police did not obstruct emergency crews' rescue of the injured student.
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government on Friday expressed "great sorrow and regret" over the death of the student, and said the police are conducting a comprehensive investigation to determine what happened.
"Today we mourn the loss of the freedom fighter in HK," Joshua Wong, a prominent activist, said in a Twitter post on Friday. "Given the losses suffered by HK society in the past month, the gov must pay the price."
Wong on Tuesday posted on Facebook that a volunteer first responder, who claimed to be among the first group arriving to help the student, accused the police of blocking the way for an ambulance and delaying proper emergency treatment for the student.
A police spokesperson at a news conference on Friday said no evidence so far shows that its officers were responsible for Chow's death. The spokesperson also urged the public to stay "calm" and "rational."
The death of the student is expected to stir public anger over police brutality, and fuel more violent clashes over the coming weekend.
"The incident will certainly aggravate the sorrows among the public," said Ma Ngok, a political science professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Most people believe the police are responsible for the student's death, though the exact cause is not clear.
But Ma does not expect a large number of people to join weekend demonstrations. The police have largely stopped authorizing marches and people no longer believe the rallies will achieve the marchers' goals. Instead, hard-core protesters may resort to acts of vandalism to express their anger.
This past weekend saw intensified confrontations across Hong Kong, resulting in several violent incidents. In one, a man with a knife wounded several protesters and bit off part of an ear of a pro-democracy district councilor.
Hard-core protesters also threw petrol bombs into the Hong Kong office of China's official Xinhua News Agency and smashed windows of the building.
Additional reporting by Olivia Tam