National security law: three more Hong Kong defendants released on bail in city’s biggest case so far under the legislation

Brian Wong
·3-min read

Three more opposition politicians charged in Hong Kong’s largest crackdown to date under the national security law were released from custody on Monday, after a judge upheld a lower court’s decision to grant them bail.

But the High Court judge revoked the bail previously awarded to a fourth defendant following a review requested by prosecutors.

The result marked an end to prosecutors’ challenge against the release of 11 of the 47 defendants in the case, all of whom stand charged with subversion over an unofficial primary election last summer.

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After three sessions of review proceedings starting last Thursday, Court of First Instance judge Esther Toh Lye-ping revoked the bail initially granted to four of the accused, while endorsing the lower court’s decision to release the other seven.

Four other defendants were released on March 5 after prosecutors withdrew their challenge against their release.

The latest to be granted bail were district councillors Kalvin Ho Kai-ming, Lee Yue-shun and Sze Tak-loy. District councillor Sam Cheung Ho-sum had his bail rescinded by the higher court on Monday.

Sze’s wife said outside the court that she was “very grateful to God” following the judge’s decision to release her husband. “This was just a bail hearing but it felt as if the court had ruled my husband was not guilty already,” she said.

Former Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan and former Civic Party district councillor Tat Cheng Tat-hung were among those released on bail by Toh in the earlier sessions. Ex-Civic Party lawmakers Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Kwok Ka-ki, together with another district councillor, had their bail revoked.

The bail conditions imposed by Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak included a ban on running in any level of governmental or non-governmental elections, as well as barring contact with foreign government officials and legislators. The group was also placed on cash bail of up to HK$1 million and required to observe a travel ban and a seven-hour curfew every night.

The 47 opposition politicians and activists have been charged over their roles in what prosecutors called a subversive plot to paralyse the government and topple the city’s leader by securing a controlling majority in the Legislative Council through an unofficial primary election last July. They were first taken to court on March 1, with the next hearing slated for May 31.

During the hearings, Toh rejected journalists’ request to relax statutory restrictions on reporting on bail proceedings, but said she would explain her decisions in a written judgment in due course.

The proceedings have attracted a huge police presence in the proximity of the court building in Admiralty. Officers carrying warning flags could be seen on standby, and audio recordings telling people to respect social-distancing rules were occasionally played outside the court’s holding area, where supporters waited for the accused to be released.

As the prosecution appealed the successful bail bids from some defendants, a number of the accused have challenged their own detention.

Eleven of the 32 defendants remanded in custody, including former lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Claudia Mo Man-ching, had their applications for review dismissed by magistrate So on Friday.

Along with those co-defendants who did not apply to West Kowloon Court for their temporary confinement to be overturned, they can still seek bail directly at the High Court.

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