A bomb scare caused about 1,600 guests to be evacuated from a Tsim Sha Tsui hotel at which hundreds of followers of the controversial religious sect Falun Gong were holding a conference yesterday. Police said a call was made to their emergency hotline at around 11.15am saying a bomb had been seen at BP International, a four-star hotel next to Kowloon Park in the centre of the busy tourist district, just a stone’s throw away from a police station. The 29-storey hotel has 529 rooms and is popular with mainland tourists. At the time, close to 1,000 local and mainland members of Falun Gong were said to be holding an annual conference in a hall of the hotel, while a group of anti-Falun Gong activists staged a protest outside the hotel. Police sealed off the building and firefighters were put on standby. A search found a suspicious box wrapped up in gift paper which contained five 25cm-long liquefied petroleum gas canisters, usually used for hotpot meals or portable stoves, tied together and hooked up to two timers in a men’s toilet on the first floor of the hotel. Bomb disposal robots were deployed while police evacuated some 1,600 people on the first three floors of the hotel and asked guests on upper floors to stay in their rooms. However, the police’s Tsim Sha Tsui assistant divisional commander Felix Chan Yun-kam later said the device was not a bomb and could not have caused an explosion. Chan did not comment on whether the bomb hoax was related to the Falun Gong event. But a Falun Gong member told reporters: “It is an annual meeting. Some overseas and mainland practitioners came to have an exchange with local practitioners.” The mainland has branded Falun Gong an evil cult and outlawed it in 1999, but the sect is still tolerated in Hong Kong. No one was arrested over the bomb scare. Normal hotel operations resumed shortly after 4pm. However, the floor where the fake bomb was found was still condoned off on Sunday evening, pending further investigation. Police appealed to anyone with information to contact them on 2761 2210. The Kowloon West regional crime unit was following up on the case. Chan added: “The police strongly condemn and would not tolerate any act that harms social order and public safety.” The hotel, located at 8 Austin Road, is adjacent to a cross-border coach terminus and is popular with mainland tourists. It is also a favourite with local diners due to its selection of affordable restaurants. A hotel duty officer declined to comment. The scare was the second bomb hoax in the past week. On Thursday, the Legislative Council Secretariat received a bomb threat after which officers scoured through the Legco building but did not find any explosives. On December 9 last year, a small gas canister was set alight and exploded in a rubbish bin in the designated protest zone outside the Legco building after the debate over the controversial copyright bill was deferred and a planned rally organised by concern group Keyboard Frontline cancelled. Police arrested six people in connection with the December 9 case. Five of them, aged 18 to 24, were charged and their cases were scheduled to be heard on February 3.