All five former leaders of the group which organised Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil have been granted bail pending trial for allegedly failing to provide information in a national security case. But two of them sought to decline bail because of conditions restricting their freedom of speech.
The five ex-leaders of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China appeared before acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Friday. They have been in custody since early September after defying a request by national security police for information about any connection to foreign political groups, a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of six months.
The five have denied the charge.
Applications for bail by the former vice-chair of the Alliance Chow Hang-tung, and committee members Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-Kwong, were granted by Law, local media reported. However Chow will remain in custody because she faces another national security law charge, inciting subversion.
The two remaining defendants, Simon Leung and Chan To-wai, did not seek bail but Law granted it, saying he believes all five should be treated equally.
Prosecutors then requested an additional bail condition which would bar the defendants from directly or indirectly producing, releasing or transmitting any speech or committing any acts that may endanger national security.
Chow and Leung then said they did not want bail, Stand News reported. “Physical liberty and freedom of speech – I will choose the latter,” Chow said. Leung also said he would not forgo his freedom of speech, adding that as the chairperson of a district council, he has an obligation to speak out for his constituents, according to HK01.
The magistrate rejected their attempts to refuse bail in the current case, saying it had been granted and the question of whether they accept it is in their own hands. He lifted reporting restrictions on the proceedings.
Other conditions include a travel ban, surrendering travel documents, cash bail of between HK$1,000 to HK$10,000, and reporting to the police weekly.
Law said the case had been widely reported in the media and police had collected a large number of exhibits, so no evidence could be tampered with. The court had previously denied bail in order to prevent acts that would continue to endanger national security and not to punish the defendants, HK01 reported him as saying.
Prosecutors asked for an adjournment until mid-February, but Law said they should return to court in late January for pre-trial proceedings – meaning Chow and Leung, if they continue to refuse bail, will be on remand for a longer period than the maximum sentence they are facing.