A Hong Kong court has refused to grant bail to pro-democracy activist Gordon Ng, who has been detained for more than 18 months pending trial in the city’s largest national security case involving 47 democrats. The court also refused to lift reporting restrictions on the bail hearing.

Designated national security judge Andrew Chan on Wednesday rejected Ng’s bail application which was heard at the High Court last week. The activist will remain in custody while awaiting to stand trial over an alleged conspiracy to commit subversion, the judge ruled.

Gordon Ng. Photo: Gordon Ng Concern Group, via Facebook.

Ng, better known under the pseudonym “Lee Bak Lou” on popular forum LIHKG, is among 18 pro-democracy figures who have pleaded not guilty to the subversion charge. The allegation centres on unofficial primary elections held in July 2020 to select opposition candidates to stand in an upcoming Legislative Council election that was eventually postponed on the grounds of Covid-19.

The well-known politicians and activists charged were said to have intended to abuse their legislative majority, if the scheme was successful, to veto budget bills, paralyse government operations and eventually force the chief executive to step down.

Ng filed his second bail application and his request for the limitations on news reports on his hearing to be removed last Friday. His first bid to ask for bail was denied last year. The judge adjourned the ruling to Wednesday as he needed time to consider a previous court decision on reporting restrictions.

High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Under court reporting restrictions on bail proceedings, written and broadcast reports are limited to only include the result of a bail application, the name of the person applying for bail and their representation, and the offence concerned.

Ng and more than 30 democrats have been held in custody for more than a year and a half following their first court appearance in March last year. They were refused bail on national security grounds, with the court saying they could not pass a stricter threshold for receiving bail under the national security law. Only 13 of 47 defendants are on bail at present.

Bail applications in national security cases have to go through a stricter assessment. Judges consider not only the defendant’s risk of absconding or obstructing justice, but also whether there are sufficient grounds for believing they “will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

So far, 29 democrats have pleaded guilty in the high-profile case, while Ng and 17 other defendants have denied the charge and are set to be tried by a three-judge panel, rather than by a jury.

A trial date is yet to be fixed.

Ng is set to appear in court again on November 8 for a case management hearing along with 16 other democrats.

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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.