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Wednesday, July 24, 2019, 15:35
Bomb plot is the ultimate wake-up call for all residents
By Tony Kwok
Wednesday, July 24, 2019, 15:35 By Tony Kwok

The discovery by police of a bomb plot on July 20 has clearly rattled nerves across the city; it should be regarded as a turning point in the current unrest. Apologists for the rioters like former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and former bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who have been appealing for an amnesty for the rioters, should now shut up! They should realize their appeals have been encouraging protesters to ever more extreme actions. Do they now dare to suggest that even bombers should be pardoned? One of the five demands the protesters have been making is a pardon for all arrested rioters. With the discovery of the bomb plot, this demand should be declared null and void!

I find it ironic that the opposition parties have been appealing for public sympathy by launching a so-called "mother's group" to stage demonstrations "to protect their children from police violence”. They must now make a public apology to police and thank them for having uncovered this bomb plot which potentially could kill some of their children participating in protest marches.  

The discovery of the explosive cache in the homemade laboratory in a Tsuen Wan factory building is most timely, on the eve of another major anti-government march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front which again caused the serious blocking of major thoroughfares. What was most abhorrent was that some of the protesters later gathered outside the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in Sai Ying Pun and hurled eggs and black paint at the national emblem; they also spray painted insults on the wall, and attempted to break into the building. But just imagine what would have happened if these rioters had possessed bombs.

The discovery by police of a bomb plot on July 20 has clearly rattled nerves across the city; it should be regarded as a turning point in the current unrest. Apologists for the rioters like former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and former bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who have been appealing for an amnesty for the rioters, should now shut up! 

The explosive cache was said to be the largest ever uncovered in Hong Kong. It contained two kilograms of Triacetone Triperoxide, also known as TATP. It is the same explosive used in the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris killing 138 people and the 2015 London bombings killing 52 people and injuring more than 700. TATP is an extremely powerful but a highly unstable explosive. Just one teaspoonful is enough to blow a car to pieces. It is not hard to imagine the carnage it would cause if it was detonated during a protest march. In the same raid, other items found on the premises included 10 petrol bombs and large quantities of acidic substances; the discovery of these things are equally worrying.

The Hong Kong Police Force therefore deserves the highest praise and the deepest gratitude from the public for doing such a professional job. The search and arrest operation was carried out in such a meticulous and coordinated fashion without causing any public casualties. So far they have arrested three people, including one caught red handed on the premises. He is an active member of the Hong Kong National Front, a pro-independence group. Other items seized at the site include sets of portable loudspeakers, gas masks, goggles, hard hats, knives and metal rods, all suggesting these items might have been used in previous riots. The threat must be taken seriously.

Perhaps these extremists were encouraged by the recent remarks of the former chairman of the Civic Party and legislative councilor, the senior counsel Alan Leong Kah-kit, who during a public forum with the University of Hong Kong vice-chancellor, cited the case of Sun Yat-sen and argued that "violence can be a solution". If he really meant what he said, is he suggesting that the Hong Kong independence group should start recruiting soldiers, buying weapons and shooting government officials? It is shocking to see a senior legal practitioner egging our youth on to greater violence to achieve their ulterior objectives.

This case could be a breakthrough in the police investigation into the riot. I am sure they will get to the bottom of it by tracing and arresting all the accomplices involved in the bomb plot as well as their involvement in previous riots. It is equally important to launch a full examination of the money trail to trace their financial supporters behind what is obviously a well-organized logistical support base. It would be most interesting to check on all mobile phone records of those arrested to see whether they are connected with any of the politicians and foreign consulates. If so, their names should be published for all to see.

This is clearly the most serious threat to public safety. All residents should support and assist the police in their investigations. I propose setting up a public donation fund, say HK$1 million ($128,000) as a start, to be used as reward money for information leading to the identification of all  accomplices in this case who are still at large.  

I am relieved to note that when the first arrested person appeared before the court on July 22 with the holding charge of possession of explosives, the magistrate did not allow him bail and remanded him in jail custody pending a next appearance in October - despite strong pleas from the defense counsel. The magistrate is absolutely right. The offence could lead to a maximum 20-year imprisonment. Furthermore, if the suspected bomber is granted bail, there is a possibility he can continue to pursue his bomb plot. What is most worrying is that we do not know how much TATP these people possessed and whether some of it had already been made into bombs and stored in various locations. Obviously the magistrate must have also taken into consideration the mistake made by her fellow magistrate who had allowed Ray Wong Toi-yeung, a previous rioter, bail and who ended up absconding to Germany. I hope that in future cases, magistrates will take a firm stand on the application of bail and must not allow their sympathy with the opposition cause to influence their judgment.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and a council member of the Chinese Society on Hong Kong & Macao Studies. He is also an international anti-corruption consultant and former deputy commissioner of ICAC.


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