28 October 2016
Police seized suspected weapons from the unit, which turned out to be items contributed by the community for recycling. Photo: HKEJ
Police seized suspected weapons from the unit, which turned out to be items contributed by the community for recycling. Photo: HKEJ

Police red-faced after ‘armory’ turns out to be recycling center

The Hong Kong Police Force came under fire after it dropped charges against four people who had been arrested in connection with a suspected armory which turned out to be a recycling center of an environmental protection group.

Chu Hon-keung, founder of the green group Goodbye, Rubbish Bins, asked the police to issue a public and detailed explanation for the mix-up, which he said has put heavy pressure on environmental activists, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The case stemmed from a police raid on a unit of an industrial building in Kwai Chung in February soon after protesters clashed with police over a government crackdown on street hawkers in Mong Kok.

Various items, including knives, wooded sticks, iron bars, kitchen chemicals as well as hundreds of masks, gloves and toy guns, were seized from the unit, and four people were arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons.

Police claimed at the time that the seized items were connected with the Feb. 8 clashes in Mong Kok.

But further investigation showed that the unit was in fact a warehouse of Oh Yes It’s Free, a recycling center to help communities recycle their household waste for free.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday said there was no reasonable chance of prosecuting the four suspects based on the police investigation report and collected evidence from the unit.

As such, there would be no prosecution.

The police department also acknowledged that its evidence at the moment was not sufficient to prosecute and decided to drop the case as well as release the four unconditionally.

It said the impounded items will be returned to the owners next week, but did not say if it will apologize for the mix-up.

One of those arrested, surnamed Chan, told Apple Daily that she and her companions were only helping communities recycle waste by storing the items in the unit.

Because of the indiscriminate arrests by the police, innocent people with clean records had been placed under great stress over the past six months, she said.

Wong Ho-yin, a member of the Civil Human Rights Front, accused the police of abusing their power and demanded that they apologize for arresting four innocent people without sufficient evidence.

Following the Mong Kok clashes, police also swooped down on the residence of Ray Wong, a leader of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, and seized an electronic gun which they said he had intended to use as a weapon.

It was confirmed later that the seized item was a toy gun that can be purchased by anyone online.

After Mong Kok clashes, fresh questions about the police (Feb. 12, 2016)

Police mocked over claim of ‘weapon’ seizure from activist (Feb. 23, 2016) 

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