Wong Wai-yin, one of the 12 Hongkongers who tried to escape to Taiwan via speedboat in 2020 but was caught by China’s coastguard, was jailed for 20 months after he pleaded guilty to a charge of making explosives.

The 30-year-old mechanic appeared before District Court Judge Frankie Yiu on Thursday. He was accused of possessing tools and materials that can be used to make explosives, including dinitrotoluene (DNT), 2.8 kilograms of sulphur, 418 millimetres of concentrated nitric acid, 690 millimetres of sulphuric acid and 270 millimetres of hydrogen peroxide.

Wan Chai Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Authorities found the explosive material containing DNT in the backyard of his home in Sha Tau Kok, located in rural New Territories, but no detonator was discovered. Experts who blew the material up in a controlled explosion said it was not in good condition and did not cause much damage.

According to local media, Wong had admitted to police that he spent a few weeks between December 2019 and January 2020 making explosives. He said he made the explosives just for fun and had scrapped a plan to test the material on a mountain as he thought it was inappropriate.

He said he buried the explosives because he did not know what else to do with the material.

Serious offence

Judge Yiu described the offence as very serious because it was committed during the protest movement, local media reported. He said the consequences could have been dire had other people got hold of the explosives.

But the judge described the case as minor compared to other such offences because the explosives were buried in the backyard and there was no detonator. Yiu set the sentence starting point at two and a half years but gave Wong a 10-month discount because of his guilty plea.

A minivan believed to be carrying one of the eight Hongkongers arrives in Tin Shui Wai Police Station on March 22, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Twelve activists — who were facing criminal charges in Hong Kong linked to the anti-extradition law protests — were arrested by the Chinese coastguard on August 23, 2020 while fleeing to Taiwan by speedboat. In December 2020, ten of the fugitives were jailed for periods between seven months to three years in connection to the illegal border crossing, while two minors were returned to Hong Kong, where they may face further charges. In all, 20 other individuals were arrested by Hong Kong police for allegedly aiding the escape.

Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.