Activist laments he was barred from talking down suicidal ‘raincoat man’

2021.05.15

Police repeatedly barred a pro-democracy politician from trying to help a suicidal demonstrator during a five-hour standoff, before the man leapt to his death amid the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, a coroner’s court heard on Friday.

Roy Kwong, a former Democratic Party lawmaker and a social worker, said he had hoped to talk down the distressed man, who stood on the edge of a shopping mall complex for hours before jumping. Kwong has a track record of saving suicidal people, he explained.

But police officers refused his requests to get close to the man, 35-year-old Marco Leung, who later became known as “raincoat man” and a symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests against proposed extradition arrangements with mainland China. Immediately before his death Leung had hung protest banners on scaffolding outside the Pacific Place shopping mall, denouncing extradition to China and calling for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.

Kwong said it was “very regrettable” that he was not allowed to get close to Leung, to persuade him to return to a safe spot. “I had hoped I would be allowed to take part in the [negotiations],” he told the court.

Kwong was originally not listed as a witness in the court investigation into Leung’s death, but Coroner David Ko Wai-hung summoned Kwong to give his account during the 12-day inquest after his name was raised several times at the inquest.

The city police said an official negotiator was handling the situation when Kwong asked to join in, and it was decided at the scene that it would be too risky for Kwong to be part of the negotiation because it was unclear if he had received relevant training.

Kwong told the court that he had “never failed” to save a person on the brink of suicide when he served the community as a district councilor.

“My only wish was [for] everyone’s safety,” he said. Leung fell from 17 meters above the ground after a five-hour standoff with negotiators on June 15, 2019.

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