Hong Kong police have arrested two men and seized chemicals capable of producing powerful explosives, with officers also discovering anti-government fliers at the suspects’ homes.
The force on Tuesday said an investigation indicated the two suspects, detained on Sunday, were still in the experimental stage of using raw materials to manufacture home-made explosives.
During the operation, officers seized anti-government fliers at the homes of the two suspects, according to Chief Inspector Wong Chi-yu of the organised crime and triad bureau.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“We also discovered anti-government social media groups in the suspects’ mobile phones, so we believe their political stance is anti-government,” Wong said.
But he added that a preliminary investigation indicated that the two suspects who met each other on the internet did not have specific plans or targets. Their arrests come a week before the district council election on Sunday.
A source familiar with the case said the initial investigation suggested the suspects were not linked to any political groups and had no criminal records.
Police intercepted the two men, aged 33 and 34, near Nam Fung Road in Wong Chuk Hang on Sunday afternoon. Officers seized an axe, a sickle and a hammer allegedly in their possession.
During the investigation, police subsequently discovered a hole on a nearby hillside.
“The hole, measuring one metre by half a metre, and half a metre deep, was covered by wooden boards and camouflage waterproof sheets,” Wong said.
“Inside the pit, police found a batch of home-made incendiary tools, including a home-made furnace, metal containers with chimneys, 1kg [2lbs] of chemicals and storage containers.”
The chief inspector said officers also found a site near the pit that had apparently been used for combustion and explosive experiments, with police also discovering used chemical packaging bags.
“After a preliminary examination by officers from the force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau, it is believed the chemicals found at the scene include chemical raw materials that can be used to manufacture home-made explosives,” he said.
Police then raided the homes of the two men in Ap Lei Chau and Chai Wan on the same day.
During the raids, officers seized about 30kg of various types of chemicals, electronic scales, laboratory apparatus as well as notes related to the production of explosives and chemicals.
“Some of the chemical raw materials can be used to manufacture two different types of home-made explosives such as TATP [triacetone triperoxide],” Wong said.
The two men were detained on suspicion of manufacturing and possessing explosives – offences punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The source said the elder suspect was an electrical technician, while the other was unemployed.
The Post learned that one of the two suspects was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
As of Tuesday morning, the two suspects were still in custody. Police said the investigation was ongoing and further arrests were possible.
“This operation shows that there are still troublemakers in Hong Kong who persist in their disruptive activities in an attempt to disturb the city,” Wong said, adding that police would take resolute action to combat illegal activities and ensure the safety of the public.
He said the storage and manufacture of chemical substances in residential and public areas could pose a serious threat to public safety and cause casualties in the event of an accident.
The force also reminded residents to report any suspicious incidents.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: construction worker urged friends to convert nail guns into firearms, bought 1.4kg of explosive chemicals ‘for fun’, court hears
- Hong Kong IT engineer admits transporting 24kg of explosive chemicals in exchange for HK$10,000