Updated: January 31, 2020 06:57 AM GMT
Diplomats in Hong Kong have been privately warned by the administration that it is bracing for a bombing campaign by radical anti-government protesters as the territory enters its 10th month of civic unrest.
Chief executive Carrie Lam has told at least one diplomat from a Western nation that there is a high chance of bombings and her administration was on high alert. In recent months the police have seized an increasing number of homemade explosive devices and other weapons.
Security secretary John Lee and police commissioner Chris Tang have also raised the alarm over possible attacks by the more extreme anti-government elements using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and firearms, the Financial Times reported.
While the protest movement has become increasingly confrontational, a sustained bombing campaign targeting the authorities would mark a dangerous escalation in the situation, analysts have said.
Three IEDs were discovered on Jan. 28, including a homemade device that caused a blast in a toilet at Caritas Medical Centre in Cheung Sha Wan. No injuries were reported.
The IEDs have been linked to protests against the government’s alleged inaction over the coronavirus outbreak, according to Hong Kong’s security bureau. The territory confirmed its 12th case of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus on Jan. 30.
Police are investigating the motive for the explosion at the medical center and a possible connection to the protests. There have been no arrests so far.
The former British colony is in the throes of its worst political crisis since its return to China in 1997. The touchpaper for the civic unrest was the attempt to introduce a law allowing people to be extradited to the mainland.
Although the bill was withdrawn in October 2019, demonstrators have widened their demands to include an independent probe into charges of police brutality as well as a call for universal suffrage.
Since the protests started in June last year, they have turned increasingly acrimonious. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day saw peaceful rallies turn violent as shops and banks were trashed and riot police pelted with stones.
Police last week arrested four people who were allegedly plotting to cause injury and chaos. Three men and one woman were detained for conspiracy to manufacture explosives and conspiracy to wound with intent. Their arrests followed the discovery of a plot to build remote-controlled bombs in December.