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Hong Kong police seize 200 air guns, arrest 10 members of ‘hidden’ organisation in raids ahead of Legislative Council election

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 14/12/2021 Clifford Lo
  • Eleven of the air guns seized were as powerful as an anti-riot shotgun, police said on Tuesday, while others had been modified to increase their firepower
  • Some of those arrested in Operation Cosmospan were actively involved in the 2019 anti-government protests, according to Superintendent Chan Yan

Hong Kong police have arrested 10 alleged members of a "hidden" violent organisation and seized more than 200 air guns - some as powerful as an anti-riot shotgun - they say might have been intended to disrupt Sunday's Legislative Council election.

Eleven of the 201 air-powered weapons were pre-charged pneumatic air guns capable of killing a deer with a single shot, according to senior inspector Lucas Lam Yen-lau of the organised crime and triad bureau.

Those weapons had a muzzle capacity of 2,000 joules - a measurement of kinetic energy. By comparison, a 9mm pistol can produce 500 to 900 joules, while a riot gun has a muzzle capacity of 1,700 to 2,200 joules.

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Some of the modified air guns were said to be powerful enough to kill a deer with a single shot. Photo: Felix Wong © Provided by South China Morning Post Some of the modified air guns were said to be powerful enough to kill a deer with a single shot. Photo: Felix Wong

Lam said some of the other 190 air guns had been illegally modified to increase their firepower. In Hong Kong, an air gun capable of producing more than two joules is classified as a firearm.

"So when we just simply look at the numbers, they are some dangerous weapons," he said.

Superintendent Chan Yan of the same bureau said an in-depth investigation had led police to identify a "hidden" organisation, some members of which were actively involved in the 2019 anti-government protests.

In addition to the air-powered weapons, more than 6,000 lead pellets of different calibres, a home-made smoke grenade launcher, axes, knives and radio communication devices were seized in 11 residential units and two warehouses in a series of raids on Sunday and Monday.

Hong Kong police to flood city's streets with 10,000 officers for Legco vote

Other seized items included nine respirators and 16 body armour plates that were classified as strategic commodities which require a licence to import, according to the force.

Police arrested nine men and one woman, aged 21 to 46, in the operation, code-named "Cosmospan".

The suspects were detained on suspicion of possession of firearms without a licence, possession of offensive weapons, import of strategic commodities and possession of radio communication devices without a licence.

Pointing to the stabbing of an officer outside a Causeway Bay department store on July 1, Chan said police were very concerned about the possibility of violent attacks.

The assailant, described by authorities as a "lone wolf terrorist", turned the knife on himself after the attack and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Hong Kong police also seized more than 6,000 lead pellets. Photo: Felix Wong © Provided by South China Morning Post Hong Kong police also seized more than 6,000 lead pellets. Photo: Felix Wong

"We are looking into what the intended use of these high-powered weapons might have been," the superintendent said.

"We will investigate if they were intended to cause any damage or disturbance to a celebration or important day such as the coming Legislative Council election on December 19. This is one of our vital tasks to look into."

Chan said they would also investigate whether the gang had accomplices.

As of midday on Tuesday, the suspects were being held for questioning and none had yet been charged.

Earlier this month, security minister Chris Tang Ping-keung revealed that police would deploy more than 10,000 officers on Election Day to ensure voting ran smoothly and safely.

He said the officers would be supported by thousands of disciplined services personnel, including special constables who would stand guard at the city's 620 polling stations on Sunday.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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