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Five men and four women have been arrested in Hong Kong after police discovered what they say is highly explosive material in an abandoned TV studio on the outskirts of the city.

Authorities claim that the group was planning some sort of attack ahead of this week’s crucial vote on political reform in the Hong Kong legislature, the South China Morning Post reports.

The paper described those arrested as “radical activists”—among them a student, a construction worker and a teaching assistant—and quoted an unnamed police source as saying they were part of a Hong Kong separatist organization that had already discussed online plans to detonate a bomb.

At a press conference Monday afternoon local time, police declined to cite the name of the organization for what were described as “operational” reasons. However, a Superintendent Ng confirmed that officers had found “several kilograms of solid substance and five liters of liquid substance we believe to be chemicals linked to [the making of] explosives.”

Police also found at another location three bottles of the “major raw material” for the making of the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP). TATP has been used in several terrorist attacks, notably the London bombings of 2005 in which 52 died and hundreds were injured.

Along with the alleged explosives, authorities claim to have found maps showing locations in the city’s Admiralty district, which is home to the legislature, the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army and the office of the highest official in the Hong Kong government, known as the Chief Executive. Locations in the neighboring district of Wanchai—a diverse area where luxury hotels and offices can be found as well as the city’s red light strip—were also allegedly marked.

A police spokesman told the press conference that there were “possibilities” that the suspected radicals were planning to “do something” at those locations.

Political tension has remained high in Hong Kong since last fall’s pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution. The city is sharply divided between those who advocate political conciliation with China and those who want Hong Kong to be run under fully democratic lines with almost total autonomy from Beijing.


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