Hong Kong police lawyer urges inquest to rule fatal car park fall of university student near protest site as accident

Brian Wong
·4-min read

A lawyer for the Hong Kong Police Force has urged an inquest to rule the car park fall of a student near a protest two years ago an accident, pointing to a “relatively high” possibility he jumped down the multistorey building by mistake.

Summarising investigators’ opinions on the fatal fall of Alex Chow Tsz-lok on Tuesday, barrister Samson Hung Kin-man said the 22-year-old might well have plunged to his death inside the car park in Tseung Kwan O by “wilfully” leaping over the edge of the third floor mistakenly believing there was cover behind it.

But Chow’s family lawyer warned against making “bold assertions” in the absence of concrete evidence, urging the five-member jury to exercise caution and keep an open mind in determining the cause of the fall, which resulted in severe head injuries to Chow and eventually took his life.

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Lawyers from both sides made closing submissions at the Coroner’s Court ahead of the coroner’s instruction to the jury on determining the cause and circumstances leading to Chow’s death at the end of the five-week court inquiry.

Barrister Samson Hung. Photo: Brian Wong
Barrister Samson Hung. Photo: Brian Wong

Chow, who studied at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was found lying unconscious on the second floor of Sheung Tak Estate car park in the early hours of November 4, 2019, when police were dispersing anti-government protesters nearby using tear gas and other anti-riot weapons. He died in hospital four days later after suffering a heart failure.

It remains unclear what happened to the student between the moment he was last seen entering the car park’s third floor and the four-metre fall eight seconds later, due to lack of security camera footage.

Student who died after car park fall may have jumped from height by mistake: court

In Tuesday’s speech, Hung said Chow might have been unfamiliar with the interior of the building, and wrongly believed that pavements were built behind a 1.2 metre-tall concrete wall lining the four sides of the third floor – a design adopted on the lower floor instead.

He cited security camera footage at the other end of the car park, which showed two unknown men trying to leap over the edge of the third floor on the same night, but stopped at the last moment after realising there were no paths behind the wall.

Alex Chow. Photo: Handout
Alex Chow. Photo: Handout

“The danger was already lurking there. It could mislead anybody,” Hung said. “In the present case, there is no other reasonable conclusion as to why Tsz-lok wanted to leap over the short wall.”

The lawyer also accused critics of police of a “double standard” for officers and paramedics at the scene, stressing it was right for frontline officers to continue a clearance operation inside the car park instead of attending to Chow when he was already being treated by first-aiders. He further hit back at criticisms that officers had obstructed or delayed Chow’s rescue based on “subjective feelings”.

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Barrister Flora Cheng Suk-yee, representing Chow’s family, reiterated that there was no direct evidence to show the student had jumped over the wall, and that it was “very dangerous” to assume he would make the same mistake as the two unidentified men.

“All assumptions were made in order to persuade you all that Tsz-lok … fell down by accident. However, in light of the lacuna in evidence, the family takes a cautious approach and believes it is insecure to rule as such,” Cheng told the jury.

Likewise, there was no evidence to suggest an “assailant” had directly contributed to Chow’s death, the lawyer added.

Coroner Ko Wai-hung will give directions to the jury on Thursday, before they begin deliberation behind closed doors.

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