Eight people have been arrested in Hong Kong, including the leader of a banned pro-independence party, for possession of offensive weapons and suspected bomb-making materials, as the city prepares for another weekend of anti-government demonstrations.
The arrests come amid heightened tensions in the financial hub, where hundreds of thousands of people have rallied since June against a controversial extradition bill. Though the bill has since been shelved, the protests have become increasingly violent and the political crisis shows few signs of abating. More mass protests are planned throughout the weekend.
Hong Kong police said Friday that seven men, aged 24 to 31, and one woman, aged 28, were detained in an industrial area in the city’s New Territories on Thursday night.
Andy Chan, the founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party that was outlawed last year, was among those arrested, police confirmed. Chan has previously said his organization is nonviolent.
During the search of a factory, officers found “ingredients to make explosives,” including materials used to make Molotov cocktails, six arrows, two bows and two softball bats, Sha Tin Superintendent Chan Yan said Friday.
In a statement released through his attorney Friday, Chan said that protesters should “not be afraid of being arrested.” “There is only the path forward, there is no turning back,” the statement read.
This appears to be the second such incident since protests kicked off. Last month, police seized what is thought to be one of the largest ever caches of high-powered explosives uncovered in the city.
Police said they found 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of high explosives, 10 petrol bombs, corrosive liquids, weapons and metal poles in a factory in the city’s New Territories. They believe triacetone triperoxide (TATP) was present at different manufacturing stages. Authorities said Friday that the two incidents do not appear to be connected.
Mohammed Swalikh, the superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Department’s Technology Crime Division, said at a news conference Friday that authorities have noticed “more radical content being circulated on the internet, including guidance on how to make weapons, explosives and petrol bombs.”
“We would like to reiterate that the internet world is not a place without law. Most of the laws that are applicable to the real world can be applied on the internet as well,” he said.
Chan’s Hong Kong National Party was banned last year on national security grounds, an unprecedented move that critics say was politically motivated because the group advocated for independence.
The party was dissolved shortly after Chan participated in a heavily scrutinized talk at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents club, despite attempts by pro-Beijing groups to pressure the club to stop the speech from going ahead.
Shortly after the speech, the club’s vice president, Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, was refused a visa renewal by the Hong Kong government – a move that is usually procedural. Mallet’s employer accused Hong Kong of withholding the visa as retribution for Mallet hosting the talk. The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said it was “pure speculation” to connect Mallet’s expulsion with the talk at the Foreign Correspondents club.
“As a rule, not only locally, but internationally, we will never disclose, the Immigration Department will not disclose the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of his decision,” she added.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that police seized six bows and two arrows on Thursday. Police seized six arrows and two bows.
CNN’s James Griffiths, Jadyn Sham and journalist Chermaine Lee contributed reporting