Hong Kong on high alert as democracy showdown looms

Protests crippled parts of the former British colony last year over plans for how its next leader will be elected

Air rifles and other seized items are displayed before a press conference at the police headquarters in Hong Kong on Monday after suspected explosives were seized at an abandoned television studio in the east coast district of Sai Kung. Hong Kong police said they had made arrests after discovering ‘suspected’ explosives, with media reports linking the find to the June 17th vote on a controversial political reform package. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens of police stood guard around Hong Kong government headquarters on Tuesday, a day after authorities arrested 10 people and seized suspected explosives ahead of a crucial vote on a China-backed electoral reform package this week.

The Chinese-ruled city is bracing for a fresh democracy showdown after protests crippled parts of the former British colony last year, and resulted in sometimes violent clashes with police, over plans for how its next leader will be elected.

Hong Kong's legislature is due to begin debate on the electoral reform package in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, with a vote due by the end of the week. Pro-democracy protesters are staging evening rallies throughout the week.With tensions running high before the debate, Hong Kong's Independent Commision Against Corruption has also said it is investigating allegations by an unidentified legislator that he was offered a bribe to vote for the package.

Police said the 10 people were arrested on Monday on suspicion of conspiracy to manufacture explosives and that some belonged to a radical group.


They did not elaborate and no charges have been laid.

Hong Kong media reported on Tuesday that some of those arrested belonged to a little-known group called the National Independent Party. According to its Facebook page the group was set up in January, but the page has now been deleted.

A June 1st post purportedly from the group warned that, if the reform package was passed, “Hong Kong people should be mentally prepared there will be casualties”.

Rising tensions have resulted in a new front of radical activism in Hong Kong, where some groups have staged small but disruptive protests targeting mainland Chinese visitors.