Fake bomb prompts evacuation at top Hong Kong shopping mall

Police use robot to blow up device outside restaurant at Star Ferry entrance of popular Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 12:48am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 4:24pm

Police are investigating a bomb scare that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people at one of Hong Kong’s most popular shopping malls.

The device planted outside a restaurant at the Star Ferry entrance of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui turned out to be fake, but police said they were treating the case seriously and would not rule out links to terrorism.

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A police source said investigators were looking for a woman captured on camera dropping an object where the suspicious device was found by a security guard in the outdoor area of an American diner at 2.10pm.

It was just a stone’s throw away from the waterfront between the mall and the ferry pier – a popular spot for tourists to soak in the scenery of Victoria Harbour.

The area was cordoned off, along with the entrance of the cruise terminal, where a luxury liner was berthed at the time.

Around 600 people were evacuated from the area, while fire fighters and police bomb disposal officers were called in.

They deployed a robot to check and blow up the device in a controlled explosion, confirming at 3.49pm that it was a fake.

The usually crowded area was reopened for business shortly after 4pm, and shoppers nearby did not seem overly concerned.

A bomb threat is a very serious offence
Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan, police divisional commander

“We actually did not know what happened until we heard a loud bang – that was actually the noise from the police robot,” said Macy Zhu, a tourist from Guangdong province.

Tsim Sha Tsui police divisional commander Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said investigators were looking into the case from all aspects, including links to terrorism.

“I wish to remind the public that a bomb threat is a very serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a HK$150,000 fine,” she said, adding that no warnings or threats were received in this case.

She explained that the device was made up of seven paper rolls resembling dynamite, with electric cables and a timer. Images taken by passers-by showed what looked like a bomb-shaped alarm clock that is readily available in the market.

A Canadian teenager sparked a scare at Toronto’s international airport in 2015 with a similar bomb-shaped alarm clock in his carry-on luggage.

In January 2014, a similar device in a parcel from Russia prompted the evacuation of more than 100 workers at the mail sorting centre in Kowloon Bay.