Hong Kong’s High Court on Monday approved bail for three pro-democracy activists, who are among a group of 47 charged with subversion under the national security law, but a district councillor must remain in custody pending trial.

The court ruled in favour of activists Kalvin Ho, Sze Tak-loy and Lee Yue-shun, whose bail had been challenged by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The three are charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” alongside 44 other democrats for organising and taking part in last July’s unofficial legislative primary election.

high court
High Court. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Justice Esther Toh ordered that Tuen Mun district councillor Sam Cheung be held in detention after upholding the prosecutors’ challenge. The 27-year-old waved goodbye to his supporters and said “I love you” to his pregnant wife as he was taken from the courtroom, according to media reports.

Monday’s rulings mean that only 11 of the 47 have been allowed bail, with the others having to wait months behind bars for trial. The next hearing in the case is not scheduled till May 31. Those charged under the Beijing-imposed security law face a higher hurdle than normal when seeking bail and offences are punishable by life imprisonment.

Chief Magistrate Victor So had approved the release of 15 of the defendants on bail on March 4, but the DoJ immediately signalled its objection to bail in 11 cases.

As in previous cases Ho, Sze and Lee must post cash bail and surrender their travel documents. They are banned from making any speech or committing any act that may be seen as breaching the security legislation. They are also barred from contacting foreign officials and must observe a curfew from midnight to 7 am. 

October 1 Police purple flag causeway bay national security banner
A police banner warning against potential violations of the national security law. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Some 1,000 police detained the pro-democracy figures in a mass raid in January under the security law, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam has described as only targeting “an extremely small minority of people.”

The aim of the opposition-organised primary, in which some 600,000 members of the public took part, was to select candidates seen as having the best chance of success in upcoming Legislative Council elections, which were later postponed.

Authorities said plans by primary organisers, to secure a majority in LegCo in the election and then to block legislation in hopes of ousting the chief executive, amounted to subversion.

The force made the 100th arrest under the sweeping legislation in early March. The controversial law – often described as “draconian” by its critics – outlaws secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers and terrorism.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.