Explosive devices planted at Lo Wu MTR aimed at pressuring gov’t to close border

Bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter briefs the media on the explosive devices found at Lo Wu MTR yesterday (left); a flaming object at Lo Wu MTR station (right). Screengrabs via Facebook/HKPF.
Bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter briefs the media on the explosive devices found at Lo Wu MTR yesterday (left); a flaming object at Lo Wu MTR station (right). Screengrabs via Facebook/HKPF.

Police confirmed last night that two homemade bombs were found on a train at the Lo Wu MTR station on Sunday afternoon, with one of them partially detonated and the other defused by officers on the scene.

The force characterized the incident part of an ongoing bombing campaign — seemingly aimed at pressuring the government to completely shut the border with China amid swirling fears of the Wuhan coronavirus — and said the city was “a big step towards terrorism” by radical individuals.

Services between Lo Wu MTR station, which links a major border checkpoint to the rest of Hong Kong, and other stations on the East Rail Line were temporarily suspended until around 9pm.

A cleaner discovered a plastic bag hidden underneath the seat of a train that had stopped at Lo Wu station around 3pm, the police said.

When a colleague of the cleaner examined the bag and found wires stuffed inside, they reported it to the police.

Francis Po, Superintendent from the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, said the train platform was cordoned off and officers from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Bureau were called to the scene when a loud bang was heard at about 3:50pm.

One of the bombs was seen billowing out smoke after catching fire, he said.

Alick McWhirter, a senior bomb disposal officer, said the bombs were “viable” devices.

“One of the bombs partially functioned,” McWhirter said.

“When we have seen this happen around the world, with multiple devices being placed on a train, it has been referred to as an act of terror, of terrorism,” he added.

“Today, in Hong Kong, fortunately, the attack was resolved with no casualties.”

Po noted that this was the fourth in a series of incidents involving homemade explosive devices in recent weeks, and added that someone posted a message on Telegram claiming responsibility for the incident.

“The case is serious. You can imagine if it exploded in a concealed, running train. People might get hurt, the smoke also could cause serious harm to a lot of people,” Po said.

Police said the Telegram user had expressed resentment at the SAR government’s refusal to entirely close the border to stem the spread of the potentially fatal coronavirus.

The user also threatened visitors from the mainland, saying they should consider their personal safety when traveling to Hong Kong, and that “placing bombs was easy” no matter how good police deployment was.

The explosives represent the most extreme form of direct action aimed at pressuring the government to full close the border.

On January 29, a flaming item was thrown on the East Rail Line tracks near University MTR station by protesters, disrupting service to the border. Other items such as a dumpster and bicycle were also found on the tracks near Fanling and Sheung Shui stations.

Today, thousands of medical staff began a planned five-day strike also intended to force the government to close the border.

Authorities have already shut several border crossings, including the high-speed rail link to the mainland, and reduced the number of vessels entering Kong Kong from the mainland by sea and air.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has defended the decision not to fully close the remaining checkpoints, saying it could affect the travel of Hongkongers and that such measures were not in line with current WHO recommendations. Amid the reduced crossings, the share of mainlanders entering Hong Kong has fallen to less than 10 percent of total arrivals.

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