Police in Hong Kong are investigating whether a bomb explosion at a public hospital on Monday is linked to protest violence, suspecting the device may have been detonated to pressure the government into closing the city's borders with mainland China, in response to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
The incident occurred after a warning two weeks ago by Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, who said there were “high risks of home-made bombs”, following similar cases police have uncovered in recent months.
In the latest case, nobody was injured when the device went off in a men’s toilet cubicle at Caritas Medical Centre in Cheung Sha Wan at about 2.30am, a spokesman for the public hospital in Kowloon said.
“Staff at the accident and emergency department heard loud bangs in a public toilet, and found that there was an explosion in one of the compartments,” the spokesman added.
“Police officers at the centre were then informed about it, and we will assist police in their investigation. We condemn the deliberate act which caused damage at the centre, and threatened patients’ safety.”
The spokesman added the A&E department could only maintain limited services in the aftermath of the explosion. About 20 patients were evacuated from the department. Services returned to normal later in the morning.
A few hours after the explosion, a message was posted on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app used by anti-government protesters, saying the latest attack was “just a warning” and “there will be more real bombs to come”, as closing Hong Kong’s borders with the mainland was the only way to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from worsening in the city.
“We will act on our word. Go on strike immediately if you don’t want to die. We will take more actions to call for the closing of borders,” the Telegram message read, seemingly addressed to hospital workers.
A senior police source said officers believed the attack was aimed at the medical sector and the government, adding that the bomb came with a timer.
“The act is cruel and heartless. The culprit dropped off the bomb and activated it. If someone was in the cubicle when the bomb detonated, he would definitely be hurt,” the source said.
“As the culprit cannot predict who would use the toilet in the hospital, we believe the attack did not target police, like in previous bomb cases. It could be linked to the recent coronavirus outbreak as the message suggested. We will look into the post.”
Detectives and officers from the bomb disposal unit conducted a preliminary probe at the scene.
Chief Inspector Kevin Chong Kiu-wai, of Sham Shui Po district’s criminal investigation division, said: “After the explosion, there was a lot of white smoke, and a small fire. Police officers found at the scene a broken glass bottle of about 10cm in width and 15cm tall, with batteries, and electrical circuits in it. “Part of the toilet was damaged, but the bomb was not very powerful.”
No one has been arrested.