A 70-year-old government worker who was hit in the head with a brick thrown during clashes between protesters and residents in Hong Kong died on Thursday night.
The Prince of Wales Hospital confirmed that the man, surnamed Luo, was left in a critical condition after being struck on the head in the Hong Kong border town of Sheung Shui on Wednesday was treated in the neurosurgery department before he died.
Police said the man, who worked for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, was on his lunch break and filming a clash between a group of 20 protesters and local residents, who were attempting to clear bricks from the roads. Video posted on social media shows protesters and residents throwing objects at each other before the man is struck and falls to the ground.
Police said Friday they are treating the man’s death as murder, claiming he was “maliciously” killed by a black-clad person in a mask.
“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,” Senior Superintendent Chan Tin Chu told reporters. Police added that no suspects had been identified.
Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong called Luo’s death “an atrocity against humanity that was totally inhumane and unforgivable.”
The 70-year-old has become the latest victim of the Hong Kong protests, which have spiraled out of control this week as protesters seek to force the authorities to meet their demands.
This week, protesters this week brought the city to a standstill, leading to increasingly violent clashes with police and residents. A policeman shot a protester on Monday, and hours later protesters set a pro-Beijing resident on fire. Last week, a 22-year-old student died from injuries sustained in a fall from a first-floor parking garage during a police operation.
This week also saw students protest at universities across the city, leading to pitched battles with police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas, while protesters used petrol bombs, bricks, and javelins.
On Friday, student protesters who had barricaded themselves into the Chinese University in Hong Kong on Tuesday finally began to depart, after partially clearing a road they had blocked.
The students left demanding that the government commit to going ahead with the local assembly elections that are set to take place in just over a week.
As the protests enter their sixth month, the impact on the city is becoming clear. As well as the human toll, Hong Kong’s businesses are also suffering. Figures released Friday show the financial hub has officially entered a recession, as a result of dropping tourist numbers and the protest’s impact on stores in the city.
The impact of the protests has expanded beyond Hong Kong: on Thursday, the city’s Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng was in London to promote the city-state and was injured on her way to give a talk after being accosted by a group of protesters who called her a “murderer.” Video posted online shows Cheung surrounded by the protesters and falling to the ground.
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which organized her talk, said in a statement that Cheng was “assaulted by a crowd” and injured her arm.
As clashes flares across the city this week, residents grew increasingly concerned that Beijing would intervene directly, with rumors swirling that the Hong Kong government might impose a curfew.
The rumors were given added substance when the Global Times, a Beijing mouthpiece, tweeted that the government “is expected to announce a curfew for the weekend.”
The tweet was subsequently deleted, and Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin clarified what had happened:
The Hong Kong government subsequently called the rumors “totally unfounded.” At a press conference on Friday morning, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung outlined a number of steps they are planning to take to halt the violence, but did not mention curfews.
Whether or not a curfew is on the table, it is clear that Lam and her government have the full backing of the Chinese government.
At a summit in Brazil, President Xi Jinping made a rare public comment about the situation in Hong Kong, calling for an end to the violence and saying that he backs the police and the courts “in severely punishing the violent criminals.”
“Stopping the violence and restoring order is Hong Kong’s most urgent task at present,” Xi said.
Cover: A protester rests near bricks scattered on a road near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Protesters who have barricaded themselves in a Hong Kong university partially cleared a road they were blocking and demanded that the government commit to holding local elections on Nov. 24. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)