Court releases three Hong Kong activists on bail in case involving 47

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s High Court on Saturday released on bail three more activists but remanded two in custody in a widely monitored case involving the most sweeping use yet of the city’s national security law.

The High Court was ruling on an appeal by prosecutors against a lower court’s decision to grant bail to the five activists.

Tat Cheng, Michael Pang and Ricky Or were granted bail, while Jeremy Tam and Kwok Ka-ki were denied bail by High Court judge Esther Toh.

Some family members of those denied bail cried after hearing the verdict, including Tam’s wife. But Kwok’s wife remained defiant, holding up a sign outside the court that read:

“Dear Hongkongers. You’ll never walk alone! Add oil!”

An appeal against granting bail to four others will be heard on Monday.

The charges on conspiracy to commit subversion against 47 opposition figures are being closely watched by foreign diplomats and rights groups.

They have raised concerns over the vanishing space for dissent in the former British colony, which has taken a swift authoritarian turn since the imposition of the law in June 2020.

Since the 47 were charged around two weeks ago, the court has heard a series of requests for bail. Although most were rejected, the court approved some applications, prompting immediate appeals from prosecutors.

Eight have been granted bail so far, including Saturday’s three, as prosecutors’ appeals were either rejected or withdrawn.

The bail conditions for the three on Saturday included not threatening national security, participating in any elections except to vote, or contacting foreign officials, as well as surrendering all travel documents, observing a curfew and reporting to police regularly.

The 47 are accused of organising and participating in an unofficial, non-binding primary poll in July 2020 that authorities said was part of a “vicious plot” to “overthrow” the government.

The vote was aimed at selecting the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the coronavirus.

Hong Kong laws restrict media coverage of bail hearings.

Reporting by Sharon Tam and Jessie Pang; Writing by Clare Jim; Editing by James Pomfret and Gerry Doyle