Hong Kong court grants bail to three of 47 activists arrested under national security law

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Hong Kong’s High Court judge granted bail to three more activists but remanded two in custody in a case involving the most sweeping use yet of the city’s national security law.

High Court judge Esther Toh, who ruled on an appeal by prosecutors against a lower court’s decision to grant bail to the five activists, released Tat Cheng, Michael Pang and Ricky Or but remanded Jeremy Tam and Kwok Ka-ki.

Some family members of those denied bail cried after hearing the verdict on Saturday, including Tam’s wife. But Kwok’s wife remained defiant, holding up a sign outside the court that read: “Dear Hongkongers. You’ll never walk alone! Add oil!”

An appeal against granting bail to four others will be heard on Monday.

The charges on conspiracy to commit subversion against 47 opposition figures are being closely watched by foreign diplomats and rights groups.

They have raised concerns over the vanishing space for dissent in the former British colony, which has taken a swift authoritarian turn since the imposition of the law in June 2020.

Since the 47 people were charged around two weeks ago, the court has heard a series of requests for bail. Although most were rejected, the court approved some applications, prompting immediate appeals from prosecutors.

The bail conditions for the three on Saturday included not threatening national security, participating in any elections except to vote, or contacting foreign officials, as well as surrendering all travel documents, observing a curfew and reporting to police regularly.

The 47 people are accused of organising and participating in an unofficial, non-binding primary poll in July 2020 that authorities said was part of a “vicious plot” to “overthrow” the government.

The vote was aimed at selecting the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hong Kong laws restrict media coverage of bail hearings. (Source: CNA)

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