Asia-Pacific

Tributes for Hong Kong protester after death from fall

A man pays respect on the site where a man fell to his death a day earlier after hanging a protest banner against the extradition bill. Source: AAP

A protester in Hong Kong has become the first fatality of the state's political unrest after falling from scaffolding while hanging a political banner.

A Hong Kong protester has died after falling from scaffolding as he attempted to hang a political banner, according to police.

The 35-year-old man surnamed Leung is the first casualty in mass protests that have rocked Hong Kong since last week.

Mourners offer prayer near the flowers on the site where a man fell to his death a day earlier after hanging a protest banner.
Mourners offer prayer near the flowers on the site where a man fell to his death a day earlier after hanging a protest banner.
AAP

On Sunday, he was already being hailed as a hero, with many leaving flowers and notes close to near where he fell ahead of another anti-extradition march planned for the afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the police force told dpa that Leung climbed onto a platform at Pacific Place mall at around 9pm on Saturday. The luxury shopping mall has played an important role in the protests as a resting place due to its close location to government offices and the legislature.

While police and firefighters attempted to coax him down, including by inflating a large landing pad, he continued to climb further with the banner before falling, police said.

He was certified as dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. The case has been classified as a suicide, according to police.

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13 June: Hong Kong community in Australia urging stronger action from government
13 June: Hong Kong community in Australia urging stronger action from government

Britain praises Hong Kong decision to suspend extradition bill

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam on Saturday delayed indefinitely the proposed law, in a dramatic retreat after widespread anger over the bill sparked the biggest street protests in three decades.

Business groups and overseas governments also hailed the move.

Britain’s foreign minister Jeremy Hunt applauded the decision.

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13 June: Uneasy calm on Hong Kong streets after violent clashes
13 June: Uneasy calm on Hong Kong streets after violent clashes

“Well done HK Government for heeding concerns of the brave citizens who have stood up for their human rights,” Hunt said on Twitter.

“Safeguarding the rights and freedoms in the Sino-British Joint Declaration is the best future for HK and Britain stands behind this legally-binding agreement.”

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” principle, with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed elsewhere in China.

“AmCham is relieved by the government decision to suspend the extradition bill and that it listened to the Hong Kong people and international business community,” said Tara Joseph, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam delayed a controversial China extradition bill on Saturday after recent protests.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam delayed a controversial China extradition bill on Saturday after recent protests.
AAP

The central government in Beijing expressed its support, respect and understanding for Hong Kong’s decision to suspend the extradition bill, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The central government also condemned violent acts in Hong Kong and supported the former British colony’s police, Xinhua said.

China’s top newspaper on Sunday condemned “anti-China lackeys” of foreign forces in Hong Kong.

“Certain people in Hong Kong have been relying on foreigners or relying on young people to build themselves up, serving as the pawns and lackeys of foreign anti-China forces,” the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a commentary.

“This is resolutely opposed by the whole of the Chinese people including the vast majority of Hong Kong compatriots.”

Critics continue push for bill to be scrapped

More mass protests on Sunday are expected, despite a climbdown by the city's embattled leader in suspending the bill.

Hong Kong diaspora and critics of the bill overseas also held protests, including in Melbourne on Sunday.

Critics fear the Beijing-backed law will tangle people up in China's notoriously opaque and politicised courts and damage the city's reputation as a safe business hub.

The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

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13 June: Protesters gather in Sydney to condemn Hong Kong extradition law
13 June: Protesters gather in Sydney to condemn Hong Kong extradition law

Lam stopped short of committing to permanently scrapping the proposal and the concession was swiftly rejected by protest leaders, who called on her to resign, permanently shelve the bill and apologise for police tactics.

Jimmy Sham, from the main protest group the Civil Human Rights Front, likened Lam's offer to a "knife" that had been plunged into the city.

"It's almost reached our heart. Now the government said they won't push it, but they also refuse to pull it out," he told reporters.

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13 June: Violence will not be tolerated': Hong Kong leader Lam on extradition bill protests
13 June: Violence will not be tolerated': Hong Kong leader Lam on extradition bill protests

'Protesters will not stop'

The protest movement has morphed in recent days from one specifically aimed at scrapping the extradition bill, to a wider movement of anger at Lam and Beijing over years of sliding freedoms.

"The pro-democracy group will not stop at this point, they want to build on the momentum against Carrie Lam," political analyst Willy Lam told AFP. "They will keep the heat on and ride the momentum."

Police said they had no choice but to use force to meet violent protesters who besieged their lines outside the city's parliament on Wednesday.

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12 June: Protesters run from tear gas in violent clash with Hong Kong police
12 June: Protesters run from tear gas in violent clash with Hong Kong police

But critics -- including legal and rights groups -- say officers used the actions of a tiny group of violent protesters as an excuse to unleash a sweeping crackdown on the predominantly young, peaceful protesters.

Anger has also been fanned by Lam and senior officers calling the street demonstrators "rioters".

Protest leaders have called for police to drop charges against anyone arrested for rioting and other offences linked to Wednesday's clashes.

Lam has argued that Hong Kong needs to reach an extradition agreement with the mainland, and says safeguards were in place to ensure dissidents or political cases would not be accepted.

Opposition to the bill united an unusually wide cross-section of Hong Kong from influential legal and business bodies, to religious leaders and western nations.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline 24 hours a day online and on 13 11 14. Other services include the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline (for people aged five to 25) on 1800 55 1800.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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