Radicals stole chemicals for bomb plot, court hears

Radical groups broke into two university laboratories to steal chemicals for a bomb plot to murder police officers during the 2019 protests and unrest, the prosecution told a terrorism jury trial on Wednesday.

The High Court. File Photo: GovHK.

Seven people are standing trial under the city’s anti-terrorism act at the High Court, with prosecutors – for the first time – invoking the offence to charge a group accused of planning to carry out a bomb attack during a rally on December 8, 2019. The plot allegedly took place during the months-long pro-democracy demonstrations and unrest which rocked the city that year.

The 60-day jury trial is the first to take place in Hong Kong under the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance.

The radical groups, including one known as “Dragon Slayers,” attempted to plant two bombs weighting 10 kilograms in total along a marching route in Wan Chai on the day concerned, the prosecution alleged. They would then detonate them as police officers approached, whilst a gunman would shoot officers from a nearby building,

Prosecutor Juliana Chow on Wednesday told a panel of nine jurors that the groups had broken into the Hong Kong Baptist University (BU) and City University of Hong Kong in November that year to search for chemicals that could be turned into explosives, citing their conversations on messaging app Telegram.

See also: Alleged Hong Kong bomb plot during 2019 protests could have caused heavy casualties, prosecution says

“From November 14 to the end of that month, they were talking about arsenals and looting chemicals,” Chow said in Cantonese, continuing the prosecution’s opening statement.

A message allegedly sent by defendant Lai Chun-pong read: “Sorry, have only broken into the 13rd floor of BU, the whole 12nd floor is not done yet.”

Chow added that the groups tested the explosive in the backstairs of Lai’s office on November 27.

A rally is held in Hong Kong Island on December 8, 2019, to mark the International Human Rights Day. File photo: May James/HKFP.A rally is held in Hong Kong Island on December 8, 2019, to mark the International Human Rights Day. File photo: May James/HKFP.
A rally is held in Hong Kong Island on December 8, 2019, to mark the International Human Rights Day. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Six men – Cheung Chun-fu, Cheung Ming-yu, Yim Ming-him, Christian Lee, Justin Hui, and Lai – have pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiring to commit bombing of prescribed objects under the anti-terrorism law. They face life behind bars if convicted.

The six also denied a charge of conspiring to commit murder of police officers and other offences relating to manufacturing and possession of explosives and ammunition.

The seventh defendant, Lau Pui-ying, stands accused of conspiring to provide or collect property to commit terrorist acts. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.

Prosecutors accuse the seven of conspiring with others – including alleged leader Wong Chun-keung and plot member David Su – to commit the offences between August 1 and December 8, 2019. Wong and Su have earlier pleaded guilty and will testify as prosecution witnesses.

Gunman

Chow on Wednesday said the gunman was Su as she pointed to a map the police retrieved from the group’s Telegram conversation. The map showed an “escape route” where a car was to pick up Su after the attack to drive him to Clear Water Bay, she said.

“If there was not the arrest on December 8, this plan was all but ready,” Chow said. “Even the escape route had been planned.”

Hong Kong PoliceHong Kong Police
The Hong Kong Police Force headquarters in Wan Chai. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

She also said the groups planned to test their weapons in early December, a week ahead of the planned attack. Su was quoted as saying “[I] want to kill as many as possible in the first wave… then everyone will claim the guns,” a message sent to other members read.

The court previously heard the plot included protesters collecting police officers’ pistols after they were killed in the bomb attack.

She added that the more preparations made by the group for the bomb plot, the more it could prove the conspiracy and the offences.

Money

Separately, Chow said Lau, the seventh defendant, was involved in the conspiracy by funding the groups’ alleged terror attack: “The money was indispensable to the whole scheme, [whereby] we are talking about a terrorist activity,” she said.

The prosecutor pointed to 938 deposits into Lau’s three bank accounts during the period concerned, which involved a total amount of about HK$2 million. Lau also made outward remittances of about HK$1 million, Chow said.

Protesters are seen behind a barricade. File photo: May James/HKFP.Protesters are seen behind a barricade. File photo: May James/HKFP.
Protesters are seen behind a barricade in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Chow added that the money Lau received stemmed from crowdfunding donations and there would be evidence showing some of the money later went into Wong’s HSBC account.

Judge Barnes told the jury to bear in mind that what Chow said was the prosecution’s allegations and they would hear evidence from witnesses during the trial’s proceedings.

The prosecution is expected to call 133 witnesses in the trial, which is slated to last until July.

The trial continues on Thursday with the first witness, the police officer who took the statement from Wong after his arrest, is set to testify.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

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