A Hong Kong court has denied bail to three University of Hong Kong (HKU) student leaders charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law after expressing sympathy for a man who stabbed a police officer and then killed himself.
A fourth defendant was granted bail but remains in custody for the time being after prosecutors appealed against the decision.
The four appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday before acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law, one of the city’s judicial officers specially selected to hear security law cases.
Student Union Council chairperson Kinson Cheung King-sang, 19, council member Anthony Yung Chung-hei, 19, student union former chairperson Charles Kwok Wing-ho, 20, and former student residence representative on the Union Council Chris Todorovski, 18, were arrested on Wednesday.
Only Yung was granted bail.
The four are accused of “advocating terrorism” under Article 27 of the national security law. The group also faces an alternative charge of “incitement to wound with intent” for allegedly inciting others to “unlawfully and maliciously wound police officers” to cause “grievous bodily harm.”
The national security offence is punishable by not less than five years in prison and not more than 10 if the circumstances are “of a serious nature.” Less serious cases are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or other forms of detention.
The magistrate rejected an application to lift court reporting restrictions. Under these restrictions, written and broadcast reports are limited to the result of bail proceedings, the name of the person applying for bail and their representative, and the offence concerned.
The group will appear in court for mention on September 14. It was not clear when the review of Yung’s bail would be heard.
The HKU Students’ Union Council passed a motion on July 7 to mourn Leung Kin-fai, the 50-year-old who committed suicide after stabbing and injuring a police officer on July 1, the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover.
“The Union Council expresses its deep sadness at the death of Mr Leung Kin-fai; offers its sympathy and condolences to his family and friends; appreciates his sacrifice to Hong Kong,” the motion read.
The motion attracted widespread criticism from the Security Bureau, which said it was “no different from supporting and encouraging terrorism” and that the students should be ashamed.
The HKUSU Council withdrew the declaration in the early hours of July 9. Kwok apologised on behalf of the council and said that the motion was “seriously inappropriate.” The executive committee of the student union also resigned.
Despite the apology and resignation, the university announced on July 13 that it had stopped recognising the student body, hours after Chief Executive Carrie Lam called for further action against students responsible for the declaration.
National security police searched the union’s office on campus three days later, as well as the offices of student union media CampusTV. The university later announced it was barring those involved with the motion from campus, a decision criticised by many alumni. More than 1,000 HKU graduates have signed a petition demanding the university revoke its ban.