Hong Kong Teen Found Dead, Naked in the Sea During Protests Sparks Ongoing Debate Over Cause

Chan Yin-lam

Chan Yin-lam is a 15-year-old student whose death last year ignited a wave of conspiracy theories that are still being circulated today.  

Cause of death unknown: Following Chan’s death, authorities were quick to determine it as suicide, according to CNN. South China Morning Post reported that there have been multiple demonstrations and rallies calling for transparency and continued investigation.

  • Reports say Chan had been dead for over 48 hours when her body was found naked, floating in the sea near Yau Tong, Hong Kong on September 22, 2019, according to Asia Times.
  • Based on the preliminary autopsy, no lacerations nor contusions were found on her body. Findings also indicated no sign of sexual assault.
  • Hong Kong Police concluded that Chan had killed herself, asserting that her death involved no foul play.
  • Protesters, however, alleged she was murdered by local authorities due to her previous participation in the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
  • Just over a month ago, a Hong Kong jury ruled an open verdict as they were still unable to determine the cause of Chan’s death.
  • According to Coroner Ko Wai-hung, homicide and suicide can be ruled out possible causes to her death due to insufficient evidence.

What is currently known: The investigation into Chan’s death has revealed key details on what transpired shortly before she went missing.

  • At around 7 p.m. on September 19, Chan was last captured on security cameras at a housing estate in Tiu Keng Leng, which is right next to her school, the Hong Kong Design Institute. 
  • Surveillance footage from her school campus showed Chan wandering around for over an hour, showcasing unusual behavior and later suspected of having psychosis symptoms.
  •  A taxi driver claimed that Chan got into his car that evening, asking to be brought to a construction site next to Lohas Park MTR station. No supporting video evidence was found when investigators followed up on this lead.
  • The search for Chan’s clothes along the shore also yielded no relevant results.

Fueling conspiracy theories: The noticeable gaps in detail over Chan’s death and the growing distrust towards the local authorities over police brutality sparked different speculations on what actually transpired on or shortly after September 19, 2019, SCMP reports.

  • Some officers were accused of allegedly sexually assaulting female protesters during and after arrests, which the former continually denied.
  • When news emerged that she had previously taken part in some protests, claims without evidence began circulating online that police officers might have assaulted or raped Chan, killed her, and then disposed of her body in the sea.
  • Chan’s mother, surnamed Ho, testified that the teen avoided the violent clashes between authorities and demonstrators.
  • “I want to clarify this, she took her own life instead of being killed,” Ho said. She stated her daughter told her she was hearing voices in August.
  • In an interview with Hong Kong broadcaster TVB last year, she lamented how she and her family had been harassed because of speculations on the causes of her death.
  • “My personal information was released online, I am being harassed by calls in the middle of the night,” Chan’s mother was quoted as saying. “I’ve lost my daughter, please stop brutalizing me. It’s too hard for us…. Please leave our family alone. I want my daughter to rest in peace.”

Feature Image Screenshot via 願榮光

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