The father of a university student who sustained fatal injuries during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong last year told a court he feared for his son’s safety when the younger man left home in black attire, with protesters blocking roads and attracting police attention nearby.
But Alex Chow Tsz-lok, carrying a backpack, left in silence without addressing his parents’ concerns, his father Chow Tak-ming recalled, adding the youth’s lack of reaction was consistent with how he had usually interacted with his parents before he was found unconscious at a car park in Tseung Kwan O on November 4, 2019.
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The senior Chow testified on Monday at the Coroner’s Court, which is tasked with ascertaining the cause and circumstances of the death of the 22-year-old, after he fell from height while a police clearance operation was under way at a protest scene nearby.
Alex Chow died four days after the fall. He had sustained severe head injuries, with two surgeries unable to save his life.
The court heard that protesters had assembled in the vicinity of Sheung Tak Estate car park and barricaded roads overnight between November 3 and 4, following online calls to gather outside a hotel in the neighbourhood, where an officer was said to be holding a wedding banquet.
Police had fired tear gas and beanbag rounds in a bid to disperse protesters, the court was told.
The university student left his flat at Beverly Garden at around 11.40pm, while his parents were watching television in the living room. Around that time, protesters had blocked roads around Kwong Ming Court and Sheung Tak Estate – next to the family’s home.
Chow Tak-ming said his son wore a nearly all-black outfit that night: a black top, deep-grey coloured shorts, black running shoes and a black cap, carrying a dark backpack. The deceased did not tell his family why he was going out.
“I told him: ‘Be careful if you are going out’,” Chow said. “Because we all learned from the news. Protesters had blocked roads ... Police might fire tear gas or even beat people up, so I reminded him to be careful.”
The father said he seldom discussed politics or last year’s civil unrest with his son, and he knew little about the latter’s involvement in the protest movement apart from the fact that he had taken part in some processions.
The older man sent a message to his son via WhatsApp at 12.46am, moments before he went to sleep, telling him that police had fired tear gas at protesters.
His son replied two minutes later: “Close the windows” – the last message sent to his family.
At around 2am, the senior Chow and his wife were awakened by their son’s secondary schoolmates, who banged on the family’s door and informed the couple about his fall. They rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, only to see their son already in a coma.
But Chow’s son never regained consciousness, and his parents agreed four days later to stop treating him after he had a heart failure.
The Year Three computer science student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was described as a positive-minded and diligent student, who was a regular on the university’s netball team.
While the father revealed in court that his son did not talk much to his parents and often hid himself in his bedroom while at home, he did not find any irregularities in the youth’s behaviour.
The inquest is expected to last 25 days, with 40 witnesses set to give evidence in court. The hearing continues on Tuesday before Coroner Ko Wai-hung and a five-member jury.