Hong Kong court grants bail to 15 of 47 democracy activists charged with subversion

WION Web Team
Hong Kong, China Published: Mar 04, 2021, 07:25 PM(IST)

Supporter of pro-democracy activists cries after court grants bail Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The landmark case has drawn widespread criticism that Beijing is using a national security law -- punishes its most serious charges, including subversion, with up to life in prison -- to crush the city's opposition.

A Hong Kong court has granted bail to around at least 15 out of 47 democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion.

The landmark case has drawn widespread criticism that Beijing is using a national security law -- punishes its most serious charges, including subversion, with up to life in prison -- to crush the city's opposition.

The activists, aged 23-64, are accused of organising and participating in an unofficial, non-binding primary poll last July that authorities said was part of a "vicious plot" to "overthrow" the government.

The marathon bail proceedings started on Monday. The hearings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing several defendants to fall ill and be taken to the hospital.

Hong Kong laws restrict media coverage of the content of bail hearings. An appeal to lift those restrictions in the interests of transparency was rejected by the court on Thursday.

In contrast with the global financial hub's common law traditions, the new security law puts the onus on defendants to prove they will not pose a security threat if released on bail.

Hong Kong's Department of Justice has said no one should interfere with independent prosecutorial decisions, adding it "undermines the rule of law."

Supporters of the security law, which punishes what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, say it is necessary to restore stability in Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Among those charged were prominent democracy campaigners Lester Shum, Joshua Wong, Owen Chow, Wu Chi-wai and Sam Cheung.

The detentions have been fiercely criticised by governments in the West, including in Britain and the United States.

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