Bail applications by two prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been thrown out by a Hong Kong court pending an appeal against their months-long prison terms over a banned vigil last year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal refused to grant bail to Lester Shum and Tiffany Yuen, who had been sentenced to six and four months behind bars respectively in May after pleading guilty to taking part in an unauthorised assembly on June 4 last year.

Tiffany Yuen Lester Shum
Tiffany Yuen and Lester Shum. Photo: Facebook.

The pair were jailed alongside high-profile activist, Joshua Wong, and former Kwun Tong district councillor, Jannelle Leung. Wong – who is currently serving a total of 27.5 months for various protest cases – is the only one of the four democrats not to have filed an appeal against their sentence.

Senior Counsel Graham Harris represented Shum and Yuen while the Department of Justice was represented by Senior Assistant Direct of Public Prosecutions William Siu.

Harris told the court that his clients would remain behind bars even if presiding judge, Derek Pang Wai-cheong, Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court, decided to extend bail, as they had already been ordered to remain in custody over a separate national security case.

Pang announced that the bail applications were turned down after adjourning the hearing for around 15 minutes. He said he would issue the reasons for declining bail in a written judgement early next week.

Shum and Yuen are among a group of 47 charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election last July. So far, only 12 defendants in the case have been released on bail pending trial.

High Court
The Court of Appeal located in the High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The unauthorised assembly case concerning last year’s park vigil involved 24 pro-democracy figures. The remaining 20 defendants are set to appear in court on September 9, when they will enter pleas. A 10-day trial has been scheduled for November.

Election victors

Family and supporters of the democrats chanted “Tiffany, add oil!” as the former Southern district councillor entered the dock wearing a white dress and a brown cardigan.

Ex-Tsuen Wan district councillor Shum, on the other hand, wore a black hoodie and made a gesture of “Okay” towards his wife in the public gallery.

Yuen waved goodbye to members of the public when she left the court, while Shum raised his thumb.

tiananmen massacre vigil 31st 2020 june 4 victoria park
June 4, 2020. File Photo: Studio Incendo.#

The duo have served in the city’s district councils since their election in 2019 when the pro-democracy camp secured a historic landslide victory against pro-establishment candidates. Both lost their seats after they were sentenced to more than three months over the banned vigil.

The Home Affairs Department announced in late May that Shum and Yuen were disqualified from holding office after a government oath of allegiance was broadened to cover district councillors. The authorities cited a decision from last July to bar Shum and Yuen from running in the postponed 2020 Legislative Council election as proof that they did not comply with the loyalty pledge.

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.