Protesters in Hong Kong are killing themselves in a disturbing turn in their high-profile struggle against China

Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesPeople protesting an extradition bill in Hong Kong gather for a moment of silence for a 21-year-old woman who died by apparent suicide on June 30.

A 28-year-old woman jumped to her death on Wednesday in the Cheung Sha Wan area of Hong Kong, the latest in a spate of apparent suicides in which the people had mentioned the territory’s struggle against the Chinese state.

The woman, identified only by her last name, Mak, was the fourth protester to die by apparent suicide in the weeks since protests erupted in Hong Kong, which has partial autonomy from mainland China.

Suicide note hong kong protestSuppliedItems, including a suicide note, left behind by a Hong Kong protester before her death.

The protests were triggered by the government’s proposal to allow China to extradite Hong Kong residents to the mainland to face criminal trial.

They acted as a lightning rod for broader unease about attempts by China to exert more control over Hong Kong, which became part of China again in 1997 after more than 150 years as a British colony.

Mak was found near her apartment in Cheung Sha Wan, a source close to the woman told Business Insider.

Before her death, she left on her bed a collection of protest paraphernalia, including goggles and a handwritten letter calling for a “revolution” in Hong Kong.

In the note, shared with Business Insider with permission from her family, Mak detailed her frustrations with the government in Hong Kong and her fears for the future of the city.

“A government that is not elected by the people do not respond to their demands,” the note read. “What Hong Kong needs is a revolution.”

Throughout the note, Mak described a sense of helplessness and despair.

She finished her note with “add oil,” a Hong Kong English term that has been used to express support during the protests.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, suspended debate on the extradition bill on June 15. However, demonstrators have continued to turn up in large numbers, saying their demands have not yet been satisfied.

In a letter written by a close friend of Mak, seen by Business Insider, the friend wrote of her passion for social justice and said her family chose to make the letter public to convey her wishes. They said they wanted to discourage others from copying her.

Mak’s death followed those of several other protesters by apparent suicide in the past several weeks.

A 35-year-old man died on June 15 after falling from scaffolding in a shopping center in the Admiralty district after unfurling a banner denouncing the bill. The police were treating his death as a suicide, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

On Saturday, a 21-year-old student fell to her death in Fanling. She reportedly left a handwritten message on the staircase of the building.

“I hope to exchange my life to fulfil the wishes of 2 million,” her message read, the Free Press reported, citing the Chinese-language Apple Daily. “Please keep on persisting.”

On Sunday, a 29-year-old woman fell from a bridge near Hong Kong station, Shanghaiist reported. In a note on her Facebook page, the woman encouraged protesters to continue turning up and said she had grown tired of fighting for the city’s future.

At least one protestor who stormed the city’s legislature on Monday evening had prepared a will, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a legislator there.

Several suicide-prevention groups said they’d gotten more calls in the past month as protests have brought the city to a standstill, the South China Morning Post reported. Samaritan Befrienders said it had received 42 since June 9, while the Hong Kong Red Cross said there had been 99 calls to its psychological-support hotline since June 12.

“This is a public mental health situation,” Clarence Tsang, the executive director of Samaritan Befrienders, told the Post.

Concerns grow over glorifying protester deaths

Hong kong memorialGeovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesProtesters placing white flowers to pay tribute to the 21-year-old woman who killed herself amid the protests.

Lawmakers and experts have warned against glorifying protesters who died and have expressed concerns about how protests could affect the mental health of Hongkongers.

Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker, said in a press conference on Tuesday that protesters needed to “drop the martyr mentality” and remain positive, Time reported.

“Some are quite willing, they say, to die for this democracy fight,” she said. “But we need to remind them it’s not worth it.”

Paul Yip, the director of the Center for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong, told the Post that the protests had for many brought up feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness, which may encourage people to take drastic actions.

“I have never seen Hongkongers so unsettled and troubled by the feeling that nothing is under control,” he said.

“The whole society has fallen into hysteria due to a volcanic eruption of the deep-seated identity crisis triggered by the bill,” Yip continued, adding that lawmakers should talk to young protesters and “take actions to improve the situation.”

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