A now missing former member of a Hong Kong pro-independence group was jailed on Friday for possessing explosives during pro-democracy protests that swept through the financial hub nearly two years ago.
Louis Lo, 29, pleaded guilty to storing TATP, a high explosive discovered during a police raid on an industrial building in July 2019. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
At the time of the raid, Hong Kong was rocked by huge and often violent protests calling for greater democracy and police accountability.
China has dismissed the protests and responded with a broad crackdown on dissent in the restive city.
Lo was a member of the Hong Kong National Front, a small fringe group that advocated independence and has since disbanded.
At the time, police said they discovered a homemade explosives lab during the raid where Lo was arrested, alongside approximately one kilogram of TATP.
TATP requires skill to make, but has been used in a number of major terrorist attacks, including the London bombings in 2005 and hotels and churches in Sri Lanka in 2019.
Books and leaflets advocating independence were also found in Lo’s possession.
At sentencing, High Court Judge Andrew Chan described Lo as the “mastermind” of the explosives lab.
“This court does not know what the TATP was intended to be used for, but again, I know it has the capacity to inflict very serious damage to the lives and property of the general public,” Chan said.
“This court would be failing in its duty to the public if it did not impose a very heavy and dissuasive sentence,” he added.
During the 2019 protests, huge crowds of hundreds of thousands marched for democracy.
Violent clashes between protesters and riot police have escalated over the months.
Towards the later stages, police said they found a handful of explosive devices.
While independence has only been a fringe political vision in Hong Kong since the city’s handover to China in 1997, popular protest slogans such as “Free Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” have seen by Beijing as an unacceptable challenge.
Last year, China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong banning any act considered subversion, secession, collusion and terrorism.
The broad wording and enforcement of the law stifled dissent, and scores of opposition figures were arrested or fled.
Almost everyone charged under the law so far is being prosecuted for holding political opinions now considered illegal.
© 2021 AFP