Nine members of a radical Hong Kong political group have been arrested on suspicion that they were planning a citywide bombing campaign targeting key transport infrastructure and court buildings.

Police said the nine – who all belong to the self-proclaimed revolutionary group Returning Valiant – were detained under article 24 of the national security law for allegedly conspiring to organise terrorist activities with bombs.

Items seized by the police. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department, said five men and four women, aged between 15 to 39, were arrested on Monday. Six of those detained were secondary school students and one was a member of the management staff of a local university.

Police raided a hostel on Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, and found a small quantity of explosives, raw materials for manufacturing bombs, and laboratory equipment for making triacetone triperoxide (TATP),  a highly unstable explosive prone to unintended detonation.

Officers also found HK$80,000 in cash, SIM cards that can be used overseas, around HK$10,000 in foreign currencies, air guns, as well as operational manuals. HK$600,000 worth of assets suspected to be related to the planned attacks have been frozen as part of the investigation.

Detectives believe the group was planning bomb attacks on public facilities across the city, including cross harbour tunnels, railways, as well as court buildings. The police said the group also planned to put bombs in rubbish bins, according to an operational manual which was seized.

Li described Returning Valiant – which itself has publicly pledged to “continue the flames of revolution” – as a radical organisation advocating Hong Kong independence, adding that the investigation which led to the arrests started at the beginning of this year.

Senior Superintendent of Police National Security Department Steve Li. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

He also said that the group recruited secondary school students who were planning to leave the city, and that they had sent people to survey two court buildings they planned to attack in early July. Police believe the group rented the hostel room in June and recently started to build a laboratory.

The senior superintendent said that one of those arrested was among a number of financial sponsors of the group and the alleged bombing campaign plot.

In May, five people were arrested under the national security law for allegedly “subverting state power,” among them were members of Returning Valiant.

The Beijing-imposed national security law, enacted just over a year ago, criminalised subversion, secession, colliusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure.

Correction 15:23: Owing to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that five members of Returning Valiant were arrested in May. Five people were arrested in May under the national security law, not all of them were members of the group.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.