Church members held in chemicals swoop

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 1996, 12:00am

Five members of the controversial Church of Zion have been arrested after police uncovered a store of potentially lethal hydrogen peroxide hidden in a flat in Fanling early yesterday.

More than 40 detectives swooped on nine residential properties and arrested four men and one woman.

They also seized 30 litres of the chemical, which they allege was being sold illegally.

Anxious not to be seen persecuting the church, the police would not confirm last night that those detained were members.

But sources close to the case said the five, aged from 22 to 35, were either members or regular attenders of church gatherings.

'We don't want to emphasise whether they are church members or not because it has little to do with the alleged offences under importation and distribution laws,' a police spokesman said.

Church of Zion leader, the Reverend Leung Yat-wah, is not among those held.

The hydrogen peroxide is thought to be part of a 2,000-litre consignment imported without proper shipping documentation from Canada in May and June.

A drum containing 24 litres was seized in one flat and individual one-litre bottles were found in two of the other nine, police said.

The hunt to find the remaining 1,970 litres is still going on.

Investigators suspect the chemical was brought into the territory in 83 24-litre drums and was delivered by members of the Church of Zion's sister organisation in Canada.

None of those arrested has been charged. They were released on $1,000 bail.

The church's selling of the chemical was criticised in the summer when some followers became sick after taking it. No one from the church was available for comment last night.