The mother of a 15-year-old Hong Kong girl whose body was found in the sea last month broke her silence on Thursday, saying her daughter "had taken her own life" and appealed for a halt to both the harassment her family has faced and speculation on the causes of her death.
Youth College student Chan Yin-lam was last seen on the school's campus in Tiu Keng Leng on September 19. Her body was found in the sea off Tseung Kwan O three days later.
The comments from Chan's mother came as the Vocational Training Council, which runs the college, "strongly urged" the coroner to conduct an inquest into the teenager's death to "clear up the facts" as soon as possible, as students held a rally for a fourth straight day to demand the "truth" after the VTC released security camera footage of Chan's movements on campus.
Chan's mother, surnamed Ho, whose face was blurred in an interview with broadcaster TVB, said she had been harassed because of viral speculation over her daughter's death.
She told me that a man's voice was instructing her to do things, causing her to be unable to sleep, and that she felt really stressedMother of Chan Yin-lam
Against the backdrop of the anti-government protests rocking the city and accusations of police brutality, critics had questioned if the girl, who had taken part in demonstrations, died at the hands of the force.
"I want to clarify this, she took her own life instead of being killed," Ho said.
Police had earlier said there was nothing suspicious about the teen's death and that she had not been arrested at protests.
Ho said her daughter helped distribute promotional leaflets in June, but became reluctant to attend protests in July because she "thought (the movement) had changed", adding that she was tear-gassed in August on her way to buy cakes rather than from joining a demonstration.
She said she had closely followed up the case with police as she had seen all the related CCTV footage.
"In the CCTV clips, her look was rather unusual," Ho said, adding that her daughter had told her at least twice that she was hearing voices in August, suspecting she could be suffering from psychosis.
"She told me that a man's voice was instructing her to do things, causing her to be unable to sleep, and that she felt really stressed."
Ho also said her daughter was sent to a girls' home in August for kicking a police officer after refusing to pay her taxi fare after visiting her boyfriend at Tong Fuk Correctional Institution.
A doctor had said she was just "rebellious" rather than suffering from emotional problems, the mother added.
She admitted that for a moment she also had suspicions about her daughter's death, and that she understood comments from internet users were out of care and concern.
But she said she was "doxxed", or had her personal information released online, because of the incident and had been harassed by calls in the middle of the night.
"I dare not go out (of my home). Please leave our family alone," Ho said.
The mother added: "I want my daughter to rest in peace. She used to dislike being bothered and annoyed. You are making a scene every day and that's very disturbing. I'm sure her soul in heaven will find it annoying as well."
To "avoid suspicion" she also showed her daughter's birth certificate in the interview.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said police would submit a full report on Chan's case to the Coroner's Court, which would then decide if further moves were needed.
Over the past few days, the VTC has released 16 security camera clips of Chan on the campus on September 19. They showed she walked around barefoot for 20 minutes before leaving the school at around 7pm. But protesting students, who had vandalised the campus in protest against the council's handling of Chan's case, remained sceptical of the released footage.
The school announced on Thursday that all classes at the Hong Kong Design Institute and Youth College, which share a campus, would be further cancelled until next Tuesday "in view of the conditions of school facilities". Classes had been suspended from Monday to Thursday.
More than 100 people, including representatives from student unions from at least five other tertiary institutions, continued to stage a sit-in on Thursday to show their support and further press school management on the incident. Wreaths were placed as some participants stood in silent tribute.
"The cause of her death may never been known and the truth may never be told," said Baptist University student union president Keith Fong Chung-yin, who attended the rally. "No matter what is the cause of her death, she's sacrificed a lot for our society."
A student from the design institute said he wished the school would release the entire CCTV footage instead of releasing clips.
In an open letter released on Thursday, the VTC said the security footage was "authentic". It said it had consulted the privacy commission on the footage it had released. It said it was "willing to provide the CCTV footage in full" if law enforcement authorities could exempt it from any legal responsibilities it had.
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