Hong Kong (8/12). Hong Kong police arrested 11 people and seized weapons, including a semi-automatic pistol, during citywide raids on Sunday, with officers saying the arms were meant to “create chaos” during a major anti-government march that started in the afternoon.
At Fortress Hill Road in Fortress Hill, police found a Glock semi-automatic pistol with five ammunition magazines, three of which were loaded. Three daggers, knives and 105 bullets were found at the location.
Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau told the press on Sunday that this was the first time a gun had been seized during the months of protest crisis.
Li said officers also found two bulletproof vests at a location on Heard Street in Wan Chai, which police believed would be used as a meeting place for radical protesters.
At Chai Wan Kok Street in Tsuen Wan, police found nine retractable batons, four bottles of pepper spray and some fire crackers, which officers said could be used to attack police stations.
Li said 75 police officers carried out the raid on Sunday morning.
“Intelligence showed that the radical group had taken part in an unlawful assembly on October 20, when they used a lot of petrol bombs to attack Mong Kok Police Station,” he said.
“Their plan is to use the gun to create chaos during the march later today, including shooting at our officers or turning the blame on officers themselves by hurting the innocent passers-by.”
Li said the police had thwarted a crisis, but added that the discovery of the weapon was evidence that people should stay alert during the march and rally, organised by the Civil Human Rights Front.
Speaking before the march began, Civil Human Rights Front convenor Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit noted that the police had made similar seizures before previous protests.
He said the front would do its best to protect marchers’ safety, such as by setting up first-aid posts. He added that, to ensure an orderly and peaceful march, police officers must also be restrained.
Li said the 11 people arrested were between 20 and 63 years old, and they claimed to be students, workers or unemployed. The suspects were arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm, possession of dangerous goods, possession of prohibited weapons and unlawful assembly.
Some of them struggled as they were arrested, according to Li.
“We are still investigating the source of the pistol … According to my records, it was the first time that real firearms were involved in recent months,” he said. “That’s why we are concerned and hope marchers will be very careful.”
Li said he would leave it to other police divisions to decide whether to ask the march organisers to change their plans.
He added that the confiscated retractable batons and pepper spray bottles were different from the models used by police.
“I dare not to say yet whether the suspects intended to use the items to make people suspect that they were plain-clothes officers,” he said.
Lee said the raids were part of an intelligence-led operation tracking a group of protesters who threw petrol bombs at a police station in the district of Mongkok on Oct 20.
The Evolution of Extremism
In late October 2018 Hong Kong police have arrested three men and seized 19 firearms, hundreds of gun parts, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and bomb-making equipment, in a series of citywide raids targeted at organised crime.
The bomb parts, which included two detonators and a fuse, were found at a house in Sai Kung last week, police revealed on Saturday night. A 70-year-old was arrested at the scene, where police also discovered 19 guns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
In January 2019 Police have seized a pistol, 700 rounds of ammunition, and a host of imitation firearms during raids targeting organised crime in Hong Kong.
Seven people were also arrested in the operation, which focused on 13 locations across the city.
In total, 19 weapons were seized, while five men and two women aged between 17 and 53 were taken into custody by officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.
In late June 2015, there was a major arrest of a group of nine individuals on charges of conspiracy to manufacture explosives in Hong Kong. The group included a total of five men and four women between the ages of 21-34 who were allegedly planning to attack Hong Kong government buildings ahead of a historic vote which would change the voting rights of the administrative region.
Among the items recovered in a raid of an abandoned warehouse, around the middle of this month, were explosives such as triacetone triperoxide, syringes, masks, several airsoft rifles, paraphernalia from government opposition groups, and a lone desktop 3D printer.
Authorities are now investigating whether or not the group had intended to modify the airsoft rifles, perhaps using components fabricated on the 3D printer, to make them lethal.
While there is nothing yet pointing to a the group’s intended plans to use the 3D printer for terrorism, it certainly seems like that may have been the case, especially considering the other items that the printer was found with.
“The evolution is expected”, experts said, “the splintering of extremists from the main body of rioters is a natural progression of extremists.”
Either way, these individuals are now off of the streets and in custody, likely for good.