Seven Hong Kong democrats awaiting trial for subversion under the national security law were ordered to remain in custody on Tuesday, three months after they were first detained, when a court rejected their latest applications for bail.
Chief Magistrate Victor So at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts refused bail to Ben Chung, Gordon Ng, Henry Wong, Andrew Chiu, Lau Chak-fung, Gary Fan and Winnie Yu. They are among a group of 47 charged with conspiracy to commit subversion in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election last July.
After being denied bail, the seven announced they would forfeit their legal right to appear in front of So every eight days for a review of their bail status, local media reported.
Carol Ng, who formerly led the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, originally planned to apply for bail but reportedly withdrew her application and also forfeited her right to a bail review.
The reasons for rejecting bail cannot be reported, due to restrictions in Section 9P of the Criminal Procedures Ordinance, unless the judiciary decides to publish the reasons later.
Another detained democrat, former district councillor Roy Tam, will apply for bail on Wednesday morning.
The 47 democrats appeared in court for mention on Monday when prosecutors sought to transfer the subversion case to the city’s High Court. In the higher court the group could face up to life in prison if convicted of violating the Beijing-imposed legislation, depending on how active a role they are deemed to have played in the alleged offence.
Monday’s hearing was adjourned to July 8, when the court will officially process the prosecution’s application to move the trial or sentencing to the High Court, depending on how defendants plead on that day.
So far, only 11 of the 47 democrats have been released on bail and the remainder have been in custody since they were charged on February 28.
Emily Lau, former chairwoman of the Democratic Party, told reporters on Monday it was “unfair” for the 36 to have been held in custody for more than three months, after prosecutors said in March that they needed time to conduct further investigations.
Former Democratic Party chair @EmilyLauWH told reporters before the hearing that it was “unfair” for 36 of the 47 activists to be held in custody, after the prosecution said in March that they needed time to conduct further investigation. pic.twitter.com/0s1deLAE10— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) May 31, 2021
“[I] am very, very upset, that these people have been locked up for so many weeks in such heat and humidity. It’s a form of torture,” she said.
National security suspects in Hong Kong face great hurdles in getting bail, after the city’s top court ruled in February that Article 42 of the sweeping legislation created a “specific exception” to the general rule in favour of the granting of bail.
Article 42 stipulates that no bail shall be granted to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing he or she will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.