HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police on Tuesday said they arrested nine people on suspicion of engaging in terrorist activity, after uncovering an attempt to make explosives and plant bombs across the city.
The arrests come amid a political divisive time in Hong Kong, two years after months of massive riots rocked the semiautonomous Chinese city. The arrests come a year after Beijing imposed a harsh new security law on the former British colony.
Of the nine arrested, six are secondary school students. The group were attempting to make the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a homemade laboratory in a hostel, police said.
They planned to use the TATP to bomb courts, cross-harbor tunnels, railways and even put some of these explosives in trash bins on the street “to maximize damage caused to the society,” police said.
The nine arrested are five men and four women between 15 and 39 years old, according to Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the Hong Kong Police National Security Department.
Authorities said they seized apparatus and raw materials used to make the TATP, as well as a “trace amount” of the explosive. They also found operating manuals and about 80,000 Hong Kong dollars in cash.
Police also froze about 600,000 Hong Kong dollars in assets that they say may be linked to the plot. The group planned to leave Hong Kong for good, and were planning to conduct the sabotage in Hong Kong before they left the city, authorities said.
TATP has been used in terrorist attacks worldwide. Since 2019, Hong Kong police have arrested multiple people over alleged bomb plots and for making TATP.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said at a regular news briefing Tuesday that she hopes the members of the public will “openly condemn threats of violence.”
“They should not be wrongly influenced by the idea that there is only government tyranny ... but that breaking the law is okay, if you’re trying to achieve a certain cause,” she said. “They should not be influenced into thinking that they can find excuses to inflict violence. ”
Lam said that an envelope of “white powder” had been sent to her office. Police said Tuesday that the substance was still being analyzed but that they did not believe it to be dangerous.
In December 2019, authorities defused two bombs at a local Catholic school. A remote-controlled homemade bomb was also detonated near a police car in 2019, when the anti-government protests were ongoing.