Hong Kong bomb plot sus­pected; 10 held

Po­lice find a cache of ex­plo­sives days be­fore law­mak­ers’ vote on elec­tion frame­work.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - julie.maki­nen@latimes.com Times staff writer Maki­nen re­ported from Shang­hai and spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Law from Hong Kong. By Julie Maki­nen and Vi­o­let Law

HONG KONG — Hong Kong po­lice ar­rested 10 peo­ple Sun­day and Mon­day sus­pected of con­spir­ing to man­u­fac­ture ex­plo­sives in this semi­au­tonomous Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. News of the bomb plot comes be­fore a highly an­tic­i­pated vote in the ter­ri­tory’s leg­is­la­ture this week on a con­tentious frame­work for Hong Kong’s next ma­jor elec­tion.

Act­ing late Sun­day night on a tip about sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties at a va­cant TV stu­dio, of­fi­cers said they found a cache of ex­plo­sives and air rif les, along with maps mark­ing a dy­na­mite de­pot and two neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Ad­mi­ralty, the seat of the leg­is­la­ture and gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters.

De­spite re­ports in lo­cal media quot­ing uniden­ti­fied po­lice sources link­ing the pos­si­ble bomb plot to the up­com­ing vote, po­lice said at a news con­fer­ence that they had un­cov­ered no ev­i­dence of a con­nec­tion.

“We won’t rule out any pos­si­bil­ity,” said Au Chin-chan, chief su­per­in­ten­dent of the po­lice’s or­ga­nized crime and triad bureau. Of­fi­cers said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­tin­u­ing.

Six men and four women were ar­rested, and at least one of them ac­knowl­edged be­ing a mem­ber of a “lo­cal rad­i­cal group,” po­lice said.

Although po­lice de­clined to iden­tify the or­ga­ni­za­tion, lo­cal news media re­ported that all sus­pects hail from a lit­tle-known nascent group called “Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party.”

The group’s Face­book page gives an email ad­dress reg­is­tered in Switzer­land and has gar­nered only 200 likes in five months, rais­ing sus­pi­cions about the po­lice de­scrip­tion of the group.

Willy Lam, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst based in Hong Kong, said more de­tails about the ar­rests would need to be aired be­fore con­clu­sions could be drawn. But among in­tel­lec­tual and pro-democ­racy cir­cles, he said, there has been dis­cus­sion about whether Com­mu­nist Party back­ers and sup­port­ers of cur­rent Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying might be work­ing be­hind the scenes to “en­cour­age some of these more rad­i­cal peo­ple to act ir­ra­tionally and then ar­rest them as a form of in­tim­i­da­tion” against oth­ers who might want to peace­ably demon­strate their views.

But Lam said there was no proof that the ar­rests were or­ches­trated in such a fash­ion.

“Some groups do want to air their griev­ances in a more pas­sion­ate man­ner,” he said.

In the run-up to the vote, some pro-democ­racy groups have or­ga­nized sev­eral days of protests around the main gov­ern­ment com­plex, where tens of thou­sands of peo­ple massed last fall in un­prece­dented street demon­stra­tions.

Those protests were aimed at a pro­posed frame­work drafted by author­i­ties in Bei­jing for Hong Kong’s next elec­tion for chief ex­ec­u­tive. The for­mer Bri­tish colony re­turned to Chi­nese sovereignty in 1997 un­der an ar­range­ment known as “one coun­try, two sys­tems.”

The elec­tion frame­work be­ing voted on this week would, for the first time, al­low Hong Kong cit­i­zens to cast bal­lots di­rectly for the ter­ri­tory’s top leader, but would limit their choice to two or three can­di­dates en­dorsed by a screen­ing panel ex­pected to be com­posed mainly of “pro-Bei­jing ” mem­bers. (Un­til now, the chief ex­ec­u­tive has been cho­sen by a 1,200-mem­ber com­mit­tee.)

For the frame­work to be im­ple­mented, Hong Kong’s Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil must vote to adopt it, and a vote is ex­pected this week.

Philippe Lopez AFP/Getty Im­ages

HONG KONG po­lice said they found a cache of ex­plo­sives and air rif les late Sun­day night af­ter re­ceiv­ing a tip about sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties at a va­cant TV stu­dio.

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