A 70-year-old cleaner who died after being hit on the head by a brick during a clash between anti-government protesters and residents in Sheung Shui was “maliciously” killed by a black-clad person in a mask, police alleged on Friday.
The case was being treated as murder and the force called on eyewitnesses to come forward to provide evidence, admitting they had not identified any suspects yet.
The man surnamed Luo, a contracted government cleaner, died on Thursday night after sustaining injuries during the clash near North District Town Hall on Wednesday.
A hospital source said the man had been admitted to the neurosurgery high-dependency unit and had not regained consciousness.
Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu said the attack happened at around noon as a group of residents tried to clear bricks from the roads.
They clashed and fought with a mob of 20 people wearing black and masks, while Luo was believed to be taking his lunch break nearby, just 300 metres from his workplace.
“Those in black first threw metal rods and bricks at the residents while Luo was believed to have used a mobile phone to film the scene. Then someone in black darted forward and threw a brick at his head,” Chan said.
The cleaner immediately fell to the ground unconscious while the fight carried on.
The protesters left and Luo was taken to hospital.
Chan said the force was treating the case as murder as officers believed the attacker had “maliciously [and] deliberately” hit Luo with the brick. He added that they would collect nearby CCTV footage to assist with their investigation.
“So far we haven’t identified any suspects yet. But according to our initial investigation, there are witnesses and online video clips on social media,” he said.
The case will be referred to the Coroner’s Court for follow-up.
The central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong expressed its “deep condolences” and urged Hongkongers to “denounce violence and protect the rule of law and stability of society together”.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, the office’s spokesman called the attack “an atrocity against humanity that was totally inhumane and unforgivable”.
The office reiterated its support for the Hong Kong government and police force, urging them to punish the culprits sternly according to the law.
“More and more Hong Kong citizens have bravely stood up in recent days, spontaneously clearing roadblocks, protecting the elderly and children and cheering on the police,” the statement read.
More footage has emerged online of the brawl in which a 70-year-old cleaner was hit by a brick. He later died pic.twitter.com/tkfaybt3Sv
— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) November 15, 2019
“This shows the people of Hong Kong are eager to bid farewell to fear and restore their peace of mind.”
The liaison office called on “more people who love Hong Kong to come out and take action against violence.”
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, as well as the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, expressed sorrow over Luo’s death.
“I am deeply saddened and extend my condolences to the family,” Chan said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the pro-Beijing camp launched a fund in support of citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises that had been affected by the unrest.
Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, one of the founders, said they got in touch with Luo’s family, who were living in mainland China, and would see how the fund could assist them.
Wong said the fund had also been assisting another victim in the protest, Lee Chi-cheung, the 57-year-old father of two girls who was set on fire during Monday’s clashes with masked protesters.
Lee underwent his first skin graft on Friday morning, according to lawmaker Elizabeth Quat who visited the family, saying more rounds of surgery would be needed if the transplant proved successful. Lee was said to still be in a critical condition.
Wong said the amount of the funding was expected to reach more than HK$10 millions, adding no political screening would be endorsed for applicants.
The other co-founders were Tam Yiu-chung, National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee member, Henry Tang Ying-nien, a standing committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Peter Kung Wing-tak, a member of CPPCC.