On the eve of the political reform vote, police found 10 people claiming to be radical localists and ingredients to build explosives. Beyond shock of the alleged plan to target Wanchai and Admiralty, were worries of a larger conspiracy.
Photo: A screenshot of the National Independent Party’s Facebook page.
Yesterday (June 15), police arrested 10 people for allegedly conspiring to make explosives. They were found in an abandoned TV studio in Ho Chung, Sai Kung, formerly owned by struggling ATV. According to the Police, the arrestees claimed they belonged to a “radical localist group”. Air rifles, a map highlighting Wan Chai and Admiralty, and printed materials with political propaganda were also found in the raid.
Media reports suggested that the arrestees are part of a group called National Independent Party (NIP). Their Facebook page indicates they were newly formed in January, and by yesterday afternoon, received just around 200 likes. Their page has since been removed from the social media website.
Benefit of the doubt
After the police revealed the evidence extracted from the abandoned studios in a press conference, many have questioned the credibility of these people’s claim that they are ‘radical localists’.
Scholarism’s Joshua Wong told the media that he was dumbfounded by the idea that the conspirators identified themselves to a particular organisation when questioned by the police. Also, he has never heard of NIP. Scholarism is considered far from the ‘localist’ category on the local political spectrum, but receives much support from the Hong Kong public.
Ray Wong, spokesperson for localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, told reporters that the verbiage used in the propaganda materials found during the raid was vastly different from the usual localist vocabulary. He pointed out that real localists would never use ‘wui gwai’ (回歸), the Chinese term for the Handover ; nor would they address Chief Executive CY Leung by his first name ‘Chun Ying’, which sounded like endearment .
He also claims he does not know anyone involved in the ‘bomb plot’, and states he hasn’t heard of any plans that involve explosives.
Social media influencer Kay Lam proposed several loopholes in the claim that the arrestees were, in fact, “localists”:
1. A large number of pamphlets that appear to belong to ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok Hung’s party, the League of Social Democrats (LSD), were found at the scene. LSD made a statement just a week before, clarifying that the pamphlets were not produced or distributed by them. LSD also does not have an explicit ‘localist’ agenda.
2. Localists often do not agree with the Chinese term for the Handover, which translates to ‘returning’ (回歸）to China, especially for those that advocate for armed resistance. One pamphlet wrote “Returned for 17 years, Corruption has regressed by 70”(回歸十七年，貪污倒退七十年). Instead they would describe it as the ‘Handover’ (政權移交) or ‘fall’ (淪陷) of Hong Kong.
3. ‘Snake Feasts, Vegetarian Feasts, Festive Cakes, & Rice Dumplings’ (蛇齋餅粽) is a phrase used extensively to criticise pro-establishment parties for “buying” votes with culinary treats before elections. The phrase is almost always worded in that order, but on the materials it was printed as ‘Snake Feasts, Vegetarian Feasts, Rice Dumplings, & Festive Cakes’ (蛇齋粽餅). Kay Lam believes real Hongkongers would never make that mistake, and points out that a Google search on the mistaken phrase shows Robert Chow (周融) was quoted saying it. Kay Lam goes as far as asking if Chow was responsible.
4. Another poster says “Kick out Snake Feasts, Vegetarian Feasts, Festive Cakes, & Rice Dumplings, Vote for Umbrella Localists” (踢走蛇齋餅粽，投雨傘本土一票). The more radical sect that advocates for armed resistance often criticise and discredit the term ‘Umbrella YuSan’ (雨傘) which is one of the Chinese names for the Umbrella Movement and is associated with the more mild(er), peaceful side of the protests. It is therefore very questionable why a radical group would call themselves ‘Umbrella Localists’ (雨傘本土).
5. For a radical group that is dealing with explosives and calling for violent armed resistance, it is quite odd they would have materials asking people to vote for them.
6. The slogan that claims the level of Hong Kong’s government corruption has regressed to that of 70 years ago makes no sense.
Save the date
Whether the NIP is merely a radicalised localist group, insensitive to the nuances of the ideology it associates with, or there exists a greater conspiracy to smear a certain political sect, remains to be seen. With the Government’s political reform package finally coming to a vote tomorrow, the police will be hoping to contain reactions outside the LegCo building, as both the pan-democratic camp and Robert Chow’s pro-Beijing camp vow to stay until the very end.