Hong Kong secondary school suspended after explosive brought in by students

Two teens were arrested for possessing a small but highly dangerous powder at Caritas Ma On Shan Secondary School

Nicola Chan |

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Caritas Ma On Shan Secondary School, where the case occurred.

Caritas Ma On Shan Secondary School is suspended today for safety reasons after two of its students were arrested on campus yesterday, after police seized what was believed to be a small but powerful amount of explosive substance.

A thorough clean-up operation is being held today, and the affected area has been cordoned off for professionals to handle the matter, according to a statement published on the school website yesterday evening.

Students living in the boarding section of the campus will stay in their dormitories for safety reasons, it added.

This came after an 18-year-old Form Six student showed his teacher a substance in powder form that was wrapped in aluminium foil during lunchtime at school, according to a police source.

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Meanwhile, a 17-year-old Form Four student was also found with a similar item at the school’s playground. The younger student claimed the substance was given to him by his senior schoolmate, the SCMP was told.

Emergency personnel were called in after a chemistry teacher suspected that the powder was a dangerous substance.

“The powder was suspected to be TATP [triacetone triperoxide] after an initial examination. Further investigation is needed,” the source said, adding that police suspected the substance was given to the 18-year-old student by a black-clad man on the streets of Prince Edward several weeks ago.

The source also said that TATP was a very dangerous and unstable explosive substance.

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The two students were being held for questioning on Wednesday night, but neither had been charged.

Police were still checking their records to determine if the two student suspects had been previously arrested in any protest-related incident since June, the SCMP was told.

In the early hours of the morning, the school’s anti-government student concern group released a statement expressing strong condemnation against the teacher’s act.

“There are sources claiming that the incident was caused by a teacher blowing the whistle on the arrested students. [We] severely condemn and will not forgive the teacher for his/her act."

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The group also alleged that the teacher involved deceived the arrested students by pretending to be on their side, while reminding other students to “trust no one” and not talk about their protest plans in school.

Young Post has contacted the group, but has not yet received a reply.

Officers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau and firefighters were called to the scene shortly before 3pm yesterday following a report of dangerous goods.

By the time officers arrived at the school, most of the students had left, and those remaining were evacuated.

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Officers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit later took the explosive substance to police headquarters in Wan Chai for further examination.

Another source said the incident might be only the tip of the iceberg, appealing to the public not to accept anything from strangers or handle unknown substances.

“This poses risks to the suspects as well as their family members at home or classmates in school,” he said.

In Hong Kong, possession of explosives carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison under the Crimes Ordinance.

TATP has been used in terrorist attacks around the world.