Ex-member of Hong Kong independence group loses appeal against 12-year prison sentence for explosives

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A former member of a disbanded Hong Kong pro-independence group has lost his bid to challenge a High Court ruling jailing him for 12 years for possessing explosives at an industrial unit during the 2019 protests.

Hong Kong independence flags. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The Court of Appeal on Monday refused to allow former Hong Kong National Front member Louis Lo to appeal his conviction. Lo was sentenced to 12 years behind bars in April last year after pleading guilty to one count of possession of an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or property.

The activist was intercepted by police on July 19, 2019, outside an industrial unit in Tsuen Wan, where around 1 kilogram of homemade triacetone triperoxide – or TATP – was found. Police also found petrol bombs, knives and pamphlets related to protests against the extradition bill in the unit, while pro-independence leaflets were discovered at Lo’s home.

Lo had sought to challenge his prison sentence, with his lawyer David Ma arguing that High Court Judge Andrew Chan erred in treating the crime of making and keeping explosives in the same way. Chan was also wrong to conclude that the activist was the mastermind, Ma said, adding that the judge’s conclusion that Lo’s guilt was akin to that of notorious “king of thieves” Yip Kai-foon was wrong.

August 2019 Hong Kong protest scene. Photo: May James/HKFP.

In Monday’s judgment, appeals judge Maggie Poon said Lo’s physical involvement in the making of the explosives did not matter because the core of Lo’s offense lay in the intent to put endanger life and property.

Poon dismissed Ma’s claim that there was no evidence to suggest the activist intended to use the explosives to harm anyone. The appeals judge said Lo’s guilty plea indicated he admitted keeping the explosives was endangering lives.

Poon also sided with the High Court judge and said he had “a right” to declare Lo a mastermind. It was evident that the role of the activist was “active, persistent and central”, she said.

“It is unthinkable that a mere subordinate or guard knowing perfectly the properties of the explosives stored in the [unit] would put his own life in danger by frequenting [unit] the way the plaintiff did it,” Poon wrote.

Supreme Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lo’s other legal representative, Hanif Mohamed Mughal, argued that Chan wrongly compared possession of 1 kilogram of TATP to 2 kilograms of TNT in Yip’s case. But Poon called his submission “flawed”, saying the activist committed the offense during the 2019 unrest and had documents advocating the overthrow of the incumbent government.

Such circumstances meant it was ‘not unrealistic’ for the judge to conclude that the potential risk posed by Lo was ‘much greater’ than the infamous thief.

“With these aggravating features, the judge correctly concluded that while Yip was looking for money, the petitioner was “targeting the Hong Kong SAR government, the stability of the region, with the intent to sow fear and terror among the citizens within the society”. written judgment read.

Poon concluded that Lo had no reasonably arguable grounds to challenge his jail sentence. He must continue to serve his sentence, which marked one of the heaviest sentences handed down in civil unrest cases.

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