Hundreds of Hong Kong residents attended an event on Sunday to commemorate the death of Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old student who died under mysterious circumstances in September.
Her death was officially ruled a suicide, but she was an active participant in the protests that rocked Hong Kong throughout the year, so many activists believe there is more to her story than the government is willing to admit.
Chan, a competitive swimmer, was found naked in the sea near the district of Yau Tong. Her mother said she complained of hearing voices and sleeping poorly before her death and believes she committed suicide.
Her mother also said Chan was not deeply involved in the protests at the time of her death, although she was on the record supporting protesters earlier in the uprising and helped deliver leaflets for the movement. She implied Chan was being “bothered and annoyed” by political activists before her death and claimed she herself has been subjected to harassment.
Some of Chan’s friends believe she was distraught about not being allowed to see her boyfriend, who was incarcerated in a correctional institute, and suggest her disappearance was related to an impending court date for striking a police officer during a struggle at the institution. Chan spent some time at a home for girls in August and September and was cited for erratic behavior while there.
Closed-circuit TV footage of her last known appearance has been carefully scrutinized, with some noting she looks much different in the video than in pictures and videos she uploaded to social media; some even question whether the girl in the campus CCTV footage really is Chan. Others note she appears to be walking around campus barefoot and would have had great difficulty completing the 20-minute hike past barricades and across jagged rocks to throw herself into the sea. The police have been accused of concealing some CCTV footage and other evidence in the case, such as Chan’s clothing, which has apparently never been accounted for.
The Hong Kong Design Institute, where Chan Yin-lam studied, arranged one of the commemorative events for her on Sunday. Two others were organized by local businesses. All of the organizers urged participants to “be water,” by which they meant keeping safe distances from each other and avoiding large crowds. A significant police presence was on the scene, but there appear to have been few disruptions.
Also commemorated at the events was Alex Chow Tsz-lok, 22, who died in November after falling out of a parking garage near a confrontation between police and protesters. As with Chan, questions linger around Chow’s death and many activists consider it suspicious.
Two Hong Kong activists were attacked by a group of men on Sunday while they were trying to recruit citizens to vote and join labor unions. The assault was caught on video and the two victims uploaded images of the injuries they received.
The police made no arrests, claiming the assailants departed the scene before they arrived and they could not track down the perpetrators.
“The incident has shown that police deliberately allow violence to be used against opposition groups, and facilitate the suppression of Hongkongers’ right to organise labour unions and express their political opinions. This cannot be tolerated,” responded North Link HK, a local activist group.