Legitimate Dissent Crushed, Terror Raises Head in Hong Kong; 9 Arrested Over Plot to Bomb City

Nine people were arrested in Hong Kong on Tuesday on charges of attempting to plant bombs across the city. Police said a group called Returning Valiant was behind the bomb plot.

Hong Kong police said the conspirators were planning to bomb courts, cross-harbor tunnels and, railways. The police said the plot also involved a plan to place the explosive devices in trash bins on the street to 'maximize damage caused to the society'.

Secondary School Students Involved in Plot

"The operation we conducted yesterday was against gangsters (who) tried to manufacture TATP explosive inside a home-made laboratory inside a hostel," senior superintendent Steve Li said, according to France 24.

Hong Kong protest
Demonstrators protest in Hong Kong asking for independence of Hong Kong Reuters

There are as many as six secondary school students among the nine arrested for alleged terror activities, according to Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the Hong Kong Police National Security Department.

The plotters were trying to make triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a students' hostel. The age of those arrested ranged from 15 to 39 years. The group also included five men and four women.

Materials Seized

The police recovered items such as explosives, raw materials to make TATP, air guns, mobile phones and SIM cards from the activists arrested. An operating manual on planting explosives and a blueprint for making the escape from the city were also seized. As much as HK$90,000 in cash was also seized.

Hong Kong protest
Pro-democracy activist Wong shouts during a protest in Hong Kong. Reuters

Alongside the students, a university management-level employee, a secondary school teacher and an unemployed person were also arrested, the Channel News Asia reported.

Hong Kong has been in the throes of a renewed pro-democracy campaign since 2019. Beijing tightened the grip on Hong Kong and curbed the democracy movement by enforcing a strict national security law last year. The law enables the Hong Kong administration to punish acts interpreted as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

The police today first arrested three men, and found items advocating Hong Kong's independence in their homes, in violation of the national security law.

Who are Returning Valiant?

Hong Kong's Returning Valiant is a pro-independence group. Arrests of members of the group had been made earlier well but on less severe charges.

Geopolitical observers feel that the propensity for engaging in terror activities is increasing among the Hong Kong dissenters as legally acceptable forms of dissent are being stifled by the Chinese authorities.

The arrested activists, most whom are teenagers, are being charged with 'terrorist activities' under the national security law. They are liable to get a maximum punishment of life in prison if the charges are proved.

According to the police, the Returning Valiant group had rented out a room at a hostel located in the shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui.

"They had a good division of labour among those arrested. Some of them provided money. Some are the scientists - the ones who made the TATP in the room ... One is responsible for the sourcing of chemicals and other materials needed for the plan, while another small group of people create the bombs, using chemical equipment. There is also a surveying team and an action team, which is responsible for laying the bombs," the police officials said in a briefing.

Death Blow to Democracy

Hong Kong protest
A demonstrator carries a yellow umbrella, symbol of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, and a placard with an image of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying Reuters

In late May, Hong Kong passed landmark legislation that will effectively lead to the end of democracy in the hitherto self-ruled city. The city's legislature passed the electoral reform that China proposed in March. The controversial legislation will effectively raise the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers in the legislature.

The crux of the bill is that it will allow the state to carry out background checks on candidates running for public office. China says this is to find out if the candidates are "patriotic," but the law allows for the screening the line-up to avoid pro-democracy candidates, according to critics.