[note: I’ve been busy and have had quite a bit of writer’s block lately. I’m going to send the email without links. I’ll add links in tomorrow, HK time]
At first, I was late pushing out an update here because I was writing something else. Since Tuesday, however, I’ve been spending entirely too much time trying to understand what happened to a 22-year-old college student who fell to his [near] death late Sunday night [or early Monday morning]. Most Extremely Online people in Hong Kong were still reeling from the police raids on several malls on Sunday night that culminated in a man stabbing four people before biting the ear off of a pro-Dem District Councilor. I’ll come back to this, but only people still watching the live streams knew anything at all was happening in Tseung Kwan O that night.
The very basic outline of what happened seems to be that a police officer was having a wedding at the Sheung Tak Plaza mall and HKPF deployed cops to guard it. At some point, I presume, people began heckling the police [because they always do these days], cops changed into their riot gear, and they started arresting hecklers [that’s new-ish]. Around 11 pm, it became a familiar Tom and Jerry Show on repeat, and the first tear gas was fired at midnight. A barricade was built around 00:30, cops came back out, and… I’ve spent the past two days going over video footage from 00:55 to 01:40 with a group I put together called OSINT HK Working Group.
Despite having CCTV footage that we synced, and another sync with an iCable live feed for audio, we don’t know when or how the HKUST student, Chow Tsz-lok, fell from the 3rd floor to the 2nd. I don’t know if we’ll ever have those answers, but what is evident in the videos is that police are firing tear gas into a parking garage where most of the people you see inside are bystanders. There are several firefighters inside while they’re firing rubber bullets inside too. Roughly when firefighters call an ambulance (1:11), we see them gassing residents in a residential courtyard who are doing little more than holding umbrellas.
There was already an ambulance there by 01:10 to respond to an [what is likely] an older resident not handling the tear gas well. Cutting a long story short, Chow wasn’t boarded into an ambulance until 1:41 despite falling between 1:02 and 1:05. Despite a barricade in between that ambulance and Chow, it was a three-minute walk or three-minute alternative drive. The CCTV footage shows police walking past firefighters trying to help [nearly] brain-dead Chow at 1:16-7, but keep walking. Of the CCTV footage released, the one camera showing them aiming guns at volunteer first aiders [their eyewitness accounts] and forcing them to flee cuts off right when it would have happened.
The riot cops - beat cops and ‘meter maids’ dressed up in riot gear, really - just moved right along to continue ‘clearing’ the parking lot one minute later. Treating the area like a designated combat zone, they refuse to allow ambulances or EMT’s inside until, at minimum, 1:23 am when they say their ‘dispersal operation’ is complete. There are videos of them firing tear gas over the ambulance that arrived at 01:10, which came after videos of about a dozen police blocking their path. Between 01:00 and 01:12ish, they moved their EU vans to form a blockade of the entrance.
The next day someone wrote an essay that, very loosely paraphrased, went something like this:
The police at TKO Sunday night acted like they were in an ‘alternate universe,’ one where the only issue of concern to them was their ‘dispersal’ operation. Gassing, shooting, and arresting residents was the only thing they cared about even after they learned about - and then saw - a nearly dead 22 y/o in desperate need of an ambulance. Everyone else who knew what was happening understood a horribly injured kid already in a coma changed everything - except the cops there.
There are two levels to this pitch-perfect critique of HKPF. The first is pointing out that this was just the most extreme example of something we’ve seen for months, which is basically “you’re hurting people, never stop to help them, only become more aggressive over time, and never realize that your escalations are why this keeps happening.” Once the riot gear comes on, firing into a residential parking garage multiple times is logical only to them. I’ve spent more hours than I care to count watching all the available footage, and, as best I can tell, they were firing aiming guns and firing gas and Less Lethal projectiles into the garage and roof because someone dropped a traffic cone at 00:59 and [something bamboo?] at 01:01 from the roof, which was a residential estate garden. At one point, 30-50 of them are pointing guns up at the floor where the boy fell to his death.
The second level is that the clearance/dispersal operation that was [somehow] responsible for his death was pointless. Not only had they ‘cleared’ the same area at around 11:30, but fire barricades also went up minutes after they left and burned till nearly 03:00. They came, they gassed, they arrested, and left it worse [in terms of protest size] worse than before. There wouldn’t have even been a protest at all had they not deployed to guard a cop’s wedding no one else knew about.
I’ll leave it here. My writer’s block is broken. I’ll add links and clean up tomorrow.