A 70-year-old cleaner surnamed Law has died one day after he was hit in the head by a brick thrown by a protester in a case that police reportedly are treating as murder.
The attack occurred on Wednesday, a day when some non-protesters were clearing streets of bricks and other impediments to traffic. The victim was struck during what, from a video, appears to have been an attack initiated by the dead man’s peers against a group of protesters in Hong Kong.
The video uploaded by Stanley Ng Chau-pei, President of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and a pro-Beijing politician, shows a group of people with long sticks approaching protesters near the North District Town Hall in Sheung Shui on Wednesday.
While a blue-shirted person started attacking the protesters with a stick, his peers threw bricks at the protesters, who protected themselves with umbrellas.
Law, who was employed by one of the subcontractors of The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, stood close to the blue-shirted attacker, apparently taking pictures at the protesters. He was then hit by a brick thrown from the protester’s side and fell down.
He was taken to hospital where he remained in a critical condition until he was pronounced dead on Thursday evening.
Another video taken by StandNews showed people still throwing bricks at protesters and calling them “dead cockroaches” after Law fell down.
Law became the first from the pro-government camp to die during clashes after Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old university student and a protester, died on November 8. There have been dozens of suspicious deaths of anti-extradition protesters, including Chan Yin-lam, 15, whose naked body was found in the sea in Yau Tong on September 22.
On a Facebook post, Ng condemned the violent behavior of the black-clad protesters.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said in a statement that it expressed profound sadness at the passing of the man. The department said the incident happened during lunchtime while the deceased was not doing his cleaning duty there.
It said it had requested the service contractor to follow up the labor insurance and compensation matters promptly and also referred the case of the deceased’s family to the Social Welfare Department for follow-up.
The government expressed its outrage over the “malicious acts of the rioters.” It said the police would investigate the case. The Coroner’s Court would judge the cause of Law’s death. A later report carried by local media said the police had decided the killing was a case of murder.
In Hong Kong, most insurance schemes do not cover injury or death of those at a “rioting” site.
From Wednesday, people were seen going to clear the obstacles on the roads in different districts after protesters paralyzed road traffic on Monday and Tuesday. Some people had brooms and gloves, but most did not have helmets. Another group in Sheung Shui brought sticks and bars.
Around noon on Thursday, baton-wielding people were seen attacking a man dressed in black in Sheung Shui. Other videos showed gangsters attacking another man and a woman in the district. Police did not arrest any of the attackers.
On Thursday, it was reported that the government had considered imposing a curfew soon. However, it dismissed the rumor in the evening.
Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said it was difficult to implement a curfew as the Hong Kong police did not have enough manpower.
Tam said if the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to help clear the roads, it may create some misunderstandings. He said it would be better to let civil servants and local citizens clear the streets.
The Citizens’ Press Conference, formed by some protesters, expressed deep regrets about the unfortunate death of Law. It called on the government to face and resolve the political conflicts instead of letting people with different views fight each other.
Meanwhile, the government said in a statement early on Friday morning that Teresa Cheng, the Secretary for Justice, suffered “serious bodily harm” on her way to an event in London on Thursday, London time.
The Secretary made a report to London police and requested police take the case seriously and bring the culprits to justice. The government castigated the violent mob in London and denounced all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals. It said these actions would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilised society.
According to a video uploaded on Twitter, Cheng fell on the floor when a group of protesters shouted at her and called her “murderer.” It was said that she hurt her arm during the fall, but the video did not show whether anyone had pushed her. Another video also did not show how she fell down.