Hong Kong copyright bill

Unemployed Hong Kong man admits involvement in rubbish bin blast outside Legco complex

Incident happened shortly after lawmakers adjourned debate on controversial copyright bill labelled ‘Internet Article 23’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 10:04pm

An unemployed man has admitted his involvement in an incident in which a handmade explosive device blew up inside a rubbish bin outside the Legislative Council in 2015.

Ip Cheuk-yin admitted in the District Court on Thursday that he was the lookout when his accomplice ignited a gas canister outside the Legco complex on December 9, 2015 before shoving it into a rubbish bin.

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The canister exploded, damaging the bin worth HK$1,250 and sending its lid about 30cm into the air. It also caused a nearby public toilet’s fire alarm to go off, the court heard.

The offence took place just hours after Legco adjourned its debate on a controversial copyright bill. Ip was involved in a protest with others he contacted over the internet during the day.

Ip, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson. His co-defendant Yeung Yat-long, 23, denied the same charge.

Prosecutor Bernard Chung Wai-keung said according to Legco video footage, two men with their faces covered approached the bin at about 8.30pm.

“One of them, holding what appeared to be a torch, lit the device and threw it into the bin,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ip stood by to keep an eye on the area, the court heard. The device exploded three minutes after he and his accomplice left.

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Ip was arrested on December 21, 2015 at his home in Jordan, where he admitted under caution that he set fire to the rubbish bin for fun with a man called “Ah Chak”.

Ip also admitted in a subsequent police interview that he first met Ah Chak on Facebook and later bonded over discussions on protest methods.

On the day of the protest, the group he met told him and Ah Chak to set fire to the bin. They were protesting against the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was dubbed by critics fearful of its effect on free speech as “Internet Article 23” in reference to contentious national security provisions in the Basic Law.

Forensic scientist Dr Billy Leung Kar-on concluded that the explosion was caused by a fire that led to increasing pressure inside the canister. Leung said isopropyl alcohol found inside the bin made the fire worse.

The court also heard that a copy of The Wall Street Journal was found inside the rubbish bin.

In his opening remarks in Yeung’s trial, Chung alleged that the defendant asked a friend he was meeting that night to buy him isopropyl alcohol and some paper.

After Yeung was given the newspaper and the alcohol, the prosecutor said the defendant put his hand inside the rubbish bin and moved it around for five seconds. He later left to meet his friends for dinner.

Deputy Judge Lily Wong Sze-lai adjourned the case to January 12 to hear mitigation for Ip. Yeung’s trial continues on Friday.