HONG KONG, Nov 17 — Three men were found guilty of possessing and conspiring to make explosives ahead of a contentious 2015 vote on political reform by a Hong Kong court today.
The trio were arrested along with two others at a time of heightened political tension in Hong Kong, following the failure of mass “Umbrella Movement” rallies to win democratic reform for the semi-autonomous city.
The five were detained as legislators prepared to vote on a Beijing-backed reform bill on how the city should choose its next leader, a year after the widespread protests that were seen as an unprecedented rebuke to China.
The legislation, which stipulated that candidates must be vetted by a committee loyal to Beijing, was eventually voted down by pro-democracy lawmakers.
The jury at the city’s High Court found Rizzy Pennelli, 24, guilty of one count of conspiracy to make explosives and two counts of possessing explosives.
Cheng Wai-shing, 31, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to make explosives and one count of possessing explosives, with Chan Yiu-shing, 36, guilty of one count of possessing explosives.
Defendants Wu Kai-fu and Man Ting-lock were acquitted.
The court had heard how the defendants had joined an anti-government group which had discussed causing “chaos” around the vote.
Local media previously reported that the group advocated independence for Hong Kong.
Calls for self-determination or even a full split from China grew out of the Umbrella Movement’s failure to win concessions through largely peaceful protests.
On the trial’s first day prosecutors said the group had tried to make explosives at an abandoned graffiti-covered television studio in the northeastern district of Sai Kung.
Police had seen flashes and smoke coming out of the building and had discovered acid, hydrogen peroxide and acetone during a raid, prosecutor Jonathan Man Tak-ho told the jury.
“There was a shadow of threat, there was a threat that never was carried out,” John Haynes, defending Pennelli, told the judge Friday.
“At the time of the arrest... the state of materials wasn’t in a condition for completing some sort of a massive bomb,” he added.
The sentencing hearing was set for December 8.
Judge Kevin Zervos called the offences “very serious” and “totally unacceptable” and remanded the trio in custody.
Conspiring to manufacture explosives carries a maximum jail term of 20 years. — AFP