21-year-old sentenced to 5 years for thwarted bomb plot that aimed to build Hong Kong resistance


Hong Kong (AP) — A Hong Kong man was sentenced to more than five years in prison for participating in a thwarted bomb plot that aimed to build resistance forces, in a closely watched case involving high school students accused of serious crimes following the 2019 anti-government protests.

Prosecutors said Alexander Au, 21, and the five others in court Thursday had planned to manufacture explosives and target court buildings. Their plot was foiled due to a police investigation, and no bombs were made and no casualties occurred.

Though the six are not among the most prominent activists in Hong Kong’s suppressed democracy movement, their case has drawn attention because they were all students when the prosecution began in 2021 and they were charged with conspiracy to carry out terrorist activities under the National Security Law.

Earlier this month, Au and four defendants, aged between 17 and 20, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause explosions that are likely to endanger life and property, an alternative to the terrorism charge that falls under a separate law. The remaining defendant Ho Yu-wang, 19, admitted to the terrorism charge.

Ho was described as one of the plot masterminds. Judge Alex Lee said at Thursday’s sentencing that the plot would have worsened the social situation in Hong Kong had it materialized and could have caused casualties.

Lee sentenced Au to five years and eight months, saying Au was more culpable since he was involved in renting a room in a guesthouse for making explosives and inspecting targeted buildings with Ho.

Three defendants, who were younger than 21 and had relatively minor roles, would be sent to rehabilitation-focused training centers, Lee said. They could be held for up to three years, but the true length of their stays will depend on authorities’ evaluation of their conduct.

The sentencing hearing of Ho and the remaining defendant was postponed to September. The pair only stayed briefly in the court room.

While Lee was handing down the penalties, two of the defendants who stayed slightly shook their heads.

When police raided the guesthouse room in 2021, officers seized equipment believed to be used for making explosives. They also alleged Ho had written in notes that his goal was to destabilize Hong Kong, promote conflicts between the central government and others, then build up a resistance group.

The National Security Law that Beijing imposed on the city after the protests criminalizes acts of succession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. It has led to the arrests of many prominent activists, including activist publisher Jimmy Lai and former student leader Joshua Wong.

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