A Hong Kong court has refused to grant bail to pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who is awaiting an appeal against a 10-month jail term for her role in an unauthorised assembly outside the Wan Chai police base last June.
High Court Justice Barnes said on Wednesday that Chow had failed to demonstrate she had a reasonable or high chance of winning the appeal.
Last week, Chow and two fellow democracy campaigners Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam – were handed prison sentences for violations of the Public Order Ordinance linked to the siege of the Arsenal Street police headquarters June 21 last year. Wong received 13.5 months behind bars and Lam seven.
The trio pleaded guilty to charges including inciting, organising and knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly, where thousands of demonstrators surrounded the police building amid anger over the police use of force in a large-scale demonstration on June 12 against a now-axed extradition bill.
As Chow sat in court on Wednesday, she briefly waved at her family members and supporters sitting at the public gallery and took deep breaths. Chow’s representative Lawrence Lok SC argued her penalty was relatively heavier compared to other sentencing of similar offences.
He said Chow did not incite violence and should not be blamed for acts of vandalism like egg-throwing and the blocking of entrances and exits of the police building.
The prosecution, on the other hand said that, while Chow was involved in an unauthorised assembly rather than an unlawful assembly, the court needed to impose a sentence with deterrent effect. The prosecutor said the two offences were similar in nature – both had a maximum sentence of three years behind bars when tried in a magistrates’ court. The reasons for sentence cited by the trial judge based on an unlawful assembly case were thus applicable to Chow’s case, the prosecution said.
“This is one of the most serious cases of unauthorised assembly… taking into account of all factors, I think the sentencing should lean towards the deterrent side,” the prosecutor said. They opposed the application for bail, adding that it would be unlikely for Chow’s application for leave to appeal to be granted.
In denying bail, Justice Barnes said that that it would not be unfair to keep Chow in detention as bail is usually extended only to those sentenced for short periods, and who have served most of their time. “Her sentence was not too short,” she said.
The sentencing last Wednesday marked Chow’s first stint in prison – she previously had no criminal record. The activist spent her 24th birthday in detention a day after the court imposed the 10-month jail term.
She thanked her supporters who wished her a happy birthday and sent gifts to her before she was taken into custody.
“I will apply for bail at the High Court on Wednesday. Hopefully I can be bailed out, and say thank you to you all in person,” Chow wrote on Facebook through her administrators.
Chow, Wong and Lam were leading members of the political group Demosisto, which was disbanded on June 30, hours before the Beijing-imposed national security law was promulgated in Hong Kong.
The sweeping legislation outlaws secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts – broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure.