Hong Kong Police Sound Alarm Over Homemade Explosives

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s much-maligned police force provided a rare behind-the-scenes look Friday at its bomb disposal squad to show the potentially deadly destructive force of homemade explosives seized during months of protests that have shaken the Chinese territory.

In a demonstration for media cameras, the bomb squad set off a series of controlled explosions in a disused quarry overlooking the citys high-rise skyline, blowing up a watermelon and shredding the front of a minivan.

In July, police announced the seizure of about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of TATP, which has been used in terrorist attacks worldwide. Other recent seizures in Hong Kong involved far smaller amounts, just 1 gram, of TATP, or tri-acetone tri-peroxide.

Obviously, I’m concerned that they are making TATP or are in possession of TATP, said Alick McWhirter, the squads senior bomb disposal officer.

Just 1 gram of the unstable explosive, equivalent to the weight of a candy, could cause life-changing injuries, he said.

A demonstration blast of 1 gram of high explosive at the quarry above the bomb squad’s fenced-off headquarters caused a loud bang. A blast involving 50 grams, which would fit into a cigarette packet, sent shrapnel flying from the shattered front of the minivan.

The squad used explosives with a destructive force equivalent to TATP but not TATP itself, because the substance is so dangerous to handle, susceptible to bumps, heat and friction.

Because I like having 10 fingers, I am not going to use TATP. McWhirter said.

In October, police said a homemade, remote-controlled bomb intended to kill or to harm riot control officers was detonated as they deployed against protests. Causing a loud thud but no injuries, the small blast marked the first known use of an explosive device during the protests that started in June over a contested extradition bill and snowballed into an anti-government, anti-police and anti-China movement.

The bomb squad has also disposed of thousands of gasoline bombs prepared by protesters on university campuses.

McWhirter said that 99% of the protesters in Hong Kong, from what I’ve seen, are peaceful.

But he added: Theres clearly, though, a small hard core who are dedicated towards violence.

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