Three Hong Kong teenagers arrested over an alleged terrorist plot to bomb streets, courts and transport networks have been charged under the national security law and remanded in custody.
The three secondary school boys were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist activities when they appeared at West Kowloon Court on Wednesday evening.
They are Ho Yu-wang, 17, Alexander Au, 19, and a 15-year-old who cannot be identified.
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The two older defendants both study at a government school in Kwun Tong, while the third is a student at an institution in Tseung Kwan O.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a life sentence, but local laws governing juvenile proceedings stipulate that defendants under the age of 16 cannot be sent to jail unless no alternative sentencing options exist.
They were among nine people, most of them teens, arrested during a series of police raids on Monday.
According to the charge sheet, the three intended to coerce Beijing or the local government to accede to their political demands through “explosion, arson, sabotage of means of transport or transport facilities, or other dangerous activities which seriously jeopardise public health, safety or security”.
They were said to be involved in the plot between June 6 and July 5. No further details were provided.
A duty lawyer representing the 15-year-old boy complained that investigators had lured him into making a confession by telling him he did not need counsel as long as his mother was present during interviews with the police.
Officers were also alleged to have pulled the boy’s hair and intimidated him in a bid to make him unlock his mobile phone for inspection.
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Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, a judge selected by the city’s leader to hear security law proceedings, threw out the defendants’ bail applications after the prosecution objected to their release. So scheduled the next hearing for September 1 to allow for further police enquiries.
As of 6pm, three of the six others arrested had been granted bail, pending further investigation. A force insider said the remaining three would be released on bail later in the night.
Among them were a staff member at Baptist University and his wife who works at a secondary school.
The force said on Tuesday that officers from the National Security Department had foiled the terrorist attack being organised by a pro-independence group known as Returning Valiant.
Police raided a guest house on Nathan Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district and discovered a makeshift laboratory set up in one of the rooms, which had been rented since June.
Officers seized a trace quantity of explosives, two bottles of liquid chemicals and laboratory equipment required to produce triacetone triperoxide, a highly unstable and powerful explosive known as TATP.
Police arrested the five men and four women on suspicion of engaging in terrorist activities, an offence under the security law that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Since the enactment of the Beijing-imposed legislation on June 30 last year to ban acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, police have arrested more than 120 suspects.
Meanwhile, police ramped up security around the Sogo department store in the Causeway Bay shopping district to guard against possible violence on Wednesday.
A force insider said the enhanced security was in response to messages posted online calling on residents to mark the seventh day of the death of a 50-year-old man who stabbed a police officer in the back and then killed himself on July 1. Chinese traditionally commemorate the death of a person on the seventh day.
At around 4pm, officers arrested a 26-year-old woman during a stop-and-search in Hennessy Road after finding a box cutter in a shoulder bag she was allegedly carrying. Detectives from the Wan Chai criminal investigation unit are handling the case.