HK nabs 9 over 'suspected' bombs
HONG Kong police said yesterday they had made nine arrests after discovering "suspected" explosives, with media reports linking the seizures to this week's legislative vote on a reform package on universal suffrage for the city.
"The Organised Crime and Triad Bureau has conducted an operation and discovered a certain amount of suspected explosives in Sai Kung," Agence France-Presse quoted a police spokesman as saying.
The police confirmed nine people were arrested following raids across the city in connection with the explosives.
The nine Hong Kongers are five men and four women, aged between 21 and 34, the South China Morning Post reported, quoting a police source.
The newspaper also said there are, among them, a post-secondary student, a teaching assistant, a construction worker, a technician and three unemployed people.
The nine suspects are core members of a "localist" radical group, which had discussed launching a bomb attack online, according to the source.
None of them had been charged.
Media reports said the highly unstable explosives - known as TATP - had been found at an abandoned studio of the closed-down Asia Television in the district of Sai Kung in the New Territories.
Police also seized a cache of air rifles and equipment believed to be used in the manufacture of explosives at the studio.
"Some of the suspects were picked up in the studio when they were apparently trying to make home-made bombs and test the power of the devices," the police source told the Post.
"More arrests are expected as the investigation is continuing," said another source the Post cited.
"Localists" are radicals opposing the Hong Kong government's electoral roadmap, which they say are imposed by Beijing.
The Post said that police believed the explosives "were intended to be detonated before the Legislative Council debates on the government's political reform package this week".
The reform Bill lays out a plan for choosing the city's next leader by public vote for the first time in 2017.
But it sticks to a ruling from Beijing, which stipulates that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee.
That ruling sparked mass rallies and roadblocks towards the end of last year, with campaigners dismissing the package as "fake democracy".
Lawmakers will vote on the Bill by the end of this week, with pro-democracy legislators vowing to block it. There will be nightly rallies ahead of the vote.
Many pro-democracy groups said the police should not refer to the nine suspects as "localists" before they have fully established their background.