3 Hong Kong activists sentenced to prison over thwarted bomb plot

The court disclosed that they intended to manufacture explosive devices using the volatile TATP and strategically place them in key public buildings, ranging from government offices to police quarters, court buildings, and railways.

Three Hong Kong activists have been handed prison sentences of up to six years for their involvement in a thwarted plot to bomb public buildings, shedding light on the implications of the city’s controversial national security law. The trio, initially charged with “conspiracy to commit terrorism” under the law in 2021, were associated with the pro-independence group ‘Returning Valiant,’ a collective formed in the aftermath of the 2021 pro-democracy protests.

The individuals—Ho Yu-wang, Kwok Man-hei, and Cheung Ho-yeung—were apprehended in July 2021 before they could execute their plans. The court disclosed that they intended to manufacture explosive devices using the volatile TATP and strategically place them in key public buildings, ranging from government offices to police quarters, court buildings, and railways. Their planned acts were scheduled between April 1 and July 5, 2021.

Prosecutors detailed that Ho, arrested at the age of 17, played a pivotal role in manufacturing the explosives and pleaded guilty to the terrorism charge. The court, recognizing him as the ring leader, sentenced him to six years in jail. Cheng, aged 23, and Kwok, aged 21, both pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of “conspiracy to cause explosions” and received respective sentences of six years and 30 months.

High Court Judge Alex Lee acknowledged the impact of the “hostile social atmosphere” prevalent during Hong Kong’s extended pro-democracy protests. He noted that such a hostile environment could readily damage a person’s moral discernment and potentially transform individuals with previously unblemished character into radicals.

This sentencing unfolds against the backdrop of a broader crackdown on dissent under Hong Kong’s national security law, introduced in 2020. The law has granted Chinese authorities sweeping powers over political and civic activities in the city. While some foreign authorities critique it as a tool to suppress dissent, Beijing maintains that the law is vital to manage unrest.

With close to 300 individuals already arrested under the controversial law, this recent case underscores the active enforcement of measures designed to uphold national security in Hong Kong. The legal proceedings highlight the ongoing tensions surrounding political activism and dissent in the region, raising questions about the balance between security measures and civil liberties.