The police in Hong Kong have detained a group of alleged "pro-democracy" activists, according to the local media. The news comes ahead of a key vote on political reform that had triggered mass protests last year.
The authorities arrested nine members of a radical political group, after finding alleged explosives in an abandoned television studio, Hong Kong media reported on Monday. A student and a teaching assistant are among the detainees, according to the reports.
"The Organized Crime and Triad Bureau has conducted an operation and discovered a certain amount of suspected explosives in (eastern) Sai Kung," a police spokesman told AFP news agency.
Another police source confirmed "there were arrests" related to the explosives, but refused to provide further detail.
According to the South China Morning Post, the police suspect that the explosives "were intended to be detonated before the Legislative Council debates the government's political reform package this week."
The police, however, did not immediately confirm whether the explosives or the arrests were indeed linked to the key vote.
Row with Beijing
By the end of this week, Hong Kong lawmakers will decide on the way the city's next chief executive would be elected in 2017. The issue had already sparked widespread protests in the former British colony last year, which lasted for 79 days.
Beijing insists that the candidates for Hong Kong's leader need to be pre-screened by a loyalist committee, with pro-democracy groups rejecting the process as "fake democracy."
Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong had vowed to veto this week's bill, with local groups announcing nightly rallies ahead of the vote.
South China Morning Post and Oriental Daily reported Monday that the nine people arrested in relation to the explosives were activists belonging to local pro-democracy groups.
At the same time, representatives of two of the groups told AFP news agency they had no knowledge of the raids and did not condone violence.
"Police said local activists are making bombs, but I am not sure if it's real or not. We have nothing to do with that," said Jon Ho of Hong Kong Localism Power.
People Power's Tam Tak-chi added: "People Power did not do that. Our group does not believe in violence."
The explosives found by the authorities were triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a report in the South China Morning Post said, citing a police source. TATP has been used in bombings by extremists in Israel and London.
dj/jil (Reuters, AFP)