Death of Chan Yin-lam
CCTV footage released by the Hong Kong Design Institute of Chan the day of her death, 19 September 2019
|Died||c. 19 September 2019 (aged 15)|
|Cause of death||Suspected suicide by drowning|
|Body discovered||Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong|
|Alma mater||Hong Kong Design Institute|
|Height||1.53m (5 ft 0 in)|
|Movement||2019 Hong Kong protests|
The death of Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old female, occurred on or shortly after 19 September 2019. Her naked corpse was found floating in the sea near Yau Tong, Hong Kong on 22 September 2019. Following a preliminary autopsy, police asserted that no foul play was suspected, and that Chan had committed suicide. Her death was the subject of a conspiracy theory that alleged that the government murdered her for participating in the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
Chan Yin-lam was 15 years old, and her parents were separated. With a "complicated" family background, she had a history of running away from home. Prior to her disappearance, she had been staying at a girls' home.
She attended the Pok Oi Hospital Tang Pui King Memorial College, Hong Kong, and had, just a few days prior to her disappearance, started a course at the Youth College attached to the Vocational Training Council (VTC). She also worked a part-time job in the restaurant trade. Media reports indicate that Chan had won awards in inter-school swimming competitions. Chan had received regular diving training and was once a member of the diving team. According to her friends, she had attended protests, while police confirmed that Chan had not been arrested during the 2019 protests.
Disappearance and death
On 19 September at 14:15, Chan separated from friends at Mei Foo and sent a message to her friends stating she was going back home. It was her last message before her disappearance. Friends put out a missing person's brief after she failed to reappear; her family called the police on 21 September. According to surveillance footage from Youth College she attended, she left the campus barefoot and walked towards the waterfront near Tseung Kwan O on 19 September. She was reported missing two days later.
MTR confirmed that station cleaners had found her mobile phone and some stationery belonging to Chan on the ground near an exit of Tiu Keng Leng Station, while the station staff have contacted Chan's family members in accordance with the phonebook of the mobile phone. Her family member picked up the lost property two days later.
At 11 am on 22 September, a man who was fishing saw a floating object with a human form 100m off the coast from Devil's Peak. Police boats were dispatched, and it was found to be the naked corpse of a human female. Police initially reported that the victim was a female suspected of being between 25 and 30 years of age, 1.5m in height, medium build, with long blond hair. No suicide note was found at the scene. According to a preliminary autopsy, there were no lacerations or contusions on her body, and no sign of sexual assault. Her death was therefore considered "not suspicious" by the police. Her body was cremated several days later.
Conspiracy theories and reactions
Following her death, conspiracy theories emerged on social media that alleged that the police and government officials murdered her for participating in the 2019 Hong Kong protests and then covered-up her death. The Hong Kong police and government have denied these allegations.
Fueled by these conspiracy theories, students from Youth College and Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) Tiu King Leng campus where she was a student gathered to demand the release of the CCTV footage taken on the evening of 19 September, where Chan was last seen before her death. On 15 October, after a sit-in, campus management agreed to accede to the demands and release some relevant footage. Dissatisfied with partial footage, disgruntled students demanded complete and unedited footage, giving a 30-minute deadline. Upon expiry of the deadline, the students vandalised school premises, damaged surveillance cameras and set off a fire alarm. The VTC later suspended all classes on the Tiu Keng Leng campus of the HKDI, Youth College and other institutions between 15 and 17 October. The VTC has since released additional CCTV clips after 200 students, amid class suspension, rallied inside the campus to support an online appeal for an indefinite class boycott. The 16 clips released showed Chan wandering around campus for more than an hour.
In an interview with TVB News on 17 October, Chan's mother Ho Pui-yee said that after looking at all the relevant CCTV footage, she was satisfied that her daughter's death was suicide. She said that although she was initially suspicious of the death of Chan, she said that her daughter was emotionally unstable, and she may well have had psychosis as demonstrated by auditory hallucination. She said that her daughter once participated in distributing the leaflet of the protests in June, but had become disillusioned by July. At the end of the interview, she complained that her personal information, including where she worked, had been made public, and that she had been telephoned at midnight. Ho pleaded to the general public to end the speculation and for her to be left alone.
Even after the Design Institute had disclosed surveillance videos and the girl's mother had appealed for an end to the speculation of Chan's death, students continued to demand the release of integral footage from surveillance cameras on 29 and 30 October. Masked protesters accused the school of downplaying the situation; they continued to damage facilities and equipment on campus for two days, with the police ended up having to be called.
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