Seven opposition politicians and activists facing subversion charges under the national security law have failed to secure bail ahead of a trial in which they face potential life sentences.
The group, among 47 opposition figures charged over an unofficial primary election last summer, was escorted back to West Kowloon Court on Tuesday, a day after prosecutors successfully applied to have the case moved to the High Court, where no sentencing cap applies.
The seven filed a second bid for bail before Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, who detained them when the case was first heard in March, but failed to convince him they fulfilled the stringent requirements for release under the new law.
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Appearing in the dock on Tuesday were district councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin; former councillors Ben Chung Kam-lun, Henry Wong Pak-yu and Gary Fan Kwok-wai; and activists Gordon Ng Ching-hang, Nathan Lau Chak-fung and Winnie Yu Wai-ming. Chung had previously failed to win bail at the High Court.
Former lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and activist Carol Ng Man-yee, who reapplied for bail, have withdrawn their applications.
The 47 are accused of taking part in the “35+ primaries” last July with the goal of paralysing the government by acquiring a controlling majority in the 70-seat Legislative Council.
The winners of the primaries, had they been elected, were said to have pledged to block government bills and budgets indiscriminately in an attempt to force Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to step down.
The prosecution said the alleged conspiracy was part of a “destructive manifesto in 10 steps to ‘mutual destruction’” inspired by legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who aimed to undermine the government by “manipulating the electoral system”.
It remains undecided if the coming trial will commence before a jury or if journalists and members of the public will be allowed to attend the proceedings.
In March, So released 15 of the 47 on cash bail of as much as HK$1 million, but a High Court Judge subsequently revoked bail for four of the group after a reassessment requested by prosecutors.
The magistrate will hear ex-district councillor Roy Tam Hoi-pong’s second bail application on Wednesday. The 47 will return to West Kowloon Court on July 8.