A Hong Kong university student who had been in critical condition after suffering a fall at a vehicle park during anti-government protests died Friday in what is believed to be the first protest-related death, local media reported.
Although the cause of his fall has not been determined, it deepened anger against police, who have been accused of heavy-handed tactics including widespread use of tear gas and pepper spray since the protests demanding democratic reforms started in June.
Chow Tsz-lok, 22, a computer science student, passed away at 8am on Friday, said the city's hospital authority.
A Hong Kong court ruling Thursday that a laser pointer carried by a teenager was an offensive weapon marked a tougher stance by the judiciary after months of anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, with a lawmaker warning it could lead to more prosecutions of demonstrators.
Chow was taken to hospital early on Monday morning following clashes between police and protesters in the middle-class district of Tseung Kwan O. "Given the losses suffered by Hong Kong society in the past month, the government must pay the price". His death came on graduation day for many students at his university, located in the picturesque Clear Water Bay district on the Kowloon side of the harbor.
People have begun rallying to mourn his death.
At the time of his fall, dozens of riot police were approaching, firing tear gas into the auto park and surrounding areas to clear away protesters.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement it expressed "great sorrow and regret" over the student's death, and extended sympathies to his family.
"The police did not hinder any fire services officers, ambulance responders or ambulance at all from taking the injured to leave the scene", a police spokeswoman said this week. Police will recommend a public inquest so that the facts of the case can be laid out in the open, she added.
"What we have seen is the police in a number of occasions they've used tear gas in retaliation, as well as excessive force", Amnesty International's Hong Kong director Tam Man-kei told Al Jazeera.
Chow was a student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The program was cut short due to the special circumstance.
Lai added that the university would hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m., in addition to an evening memorial at the vehicle park where Chow fell.
The movement has since expanded to other demands including direct elections for the city's leaders and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality against protesters.
Chants of "Hong Kong people, revenge" and "A blood debt must be paid in blood" rang out during multiple memorial events across the city at night as mourners demanded truth and justice over his death.
More than 3,300 people have been detained amid mounting violence, and Beijing has indicated it will tighten its grip on the territory to quell the unrest.
During the five months of anti-government protests, deaths of certain protesters that were ruled suicide have fuelled the conspiracy theories of possible foul play by the police.
The incident has sparked student protests on campus.