Crime & Justice

Hong Kong court delays bail for pro-democracy politicians

Beijing, Mar 6 (efe-epa).- A group of 11 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists will have to stay in jail for at least another five days as the top court in the city Saturday said it would consider their bail next week.

The court will hear on Mar.11 and 13 the prosecution’s appeal against bail granted by a local court to the pro-democracy activists and opposition politicians accused of subversion.

Among the accused are former lawmakers Helena Wong, Jeremy Tam, and Kwok Ka-ki. They have been in custody since Thursday.

The department of justice appealed against the lower court’s decision to grant them bail, public broadcaster RTHK reported Saturday.

Four other defendants who were also granted bail were released on Friday as the department withdrew its appeal against the decision.

The remaining 32 defendants out of the 47 charged with subversion under the contentious national security law were not released on bail.

The national security law, approved last year by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and imposed on June 30, 2020, stipulates penalties of up to life imprisonment in the cases related to subversion, terrorism, secession, or collusion with foreign influences.

All 47 defendants are due to appear in court on May 31.

The 47 dissidents were among 55 people rounded up on Jan. 6 and 7 by police in a mass arrest that sent shockwaves through Hong Kong.

They were alleged to have attempted to paralyze the government through their involvement in the primaries held in July 2020.

The unofficial poll, an “evil plot” according to the Hong Kong authorities, was meant to maximize the chance of the pro-democracy camp gaining a majority at the Legislative Council election.

The poll was originally scheduled for September 2020 but later postponed by a year due to Covid-19 concerns.

The entire judicial process in Hong Kong is unfolding in conjunction with Beijing’s announcement of an electoral reform which, in the view of the Chinese state-run media, will serve to fill legal loopholes.

According to the state media, the so-called legal ambiguities threatened the security and stability of the special administrative region, which was rocked by a wave of anti-government protests during the second half of 2019.

However, analysts and activists view the proposal as yet another mechanism to strengthen China’s control over the semi-autonomous city and further limit Hong Kong’s already restricted electoral system.

The Chinese legislature is expected to approve the detailed drafting and processing of the reform next week at the end of the annual meeting of the NPC.

It was during NPC’s meeting last year that Beijing began the process of adopting the Hong Kong national security law, which has resulted in a reduction in the freedoms previously enjoyed by the former British colony.

However, lawyers and activists in the city believe that the new law could mean an end to the freedoms that people in Hong Kong, unlike those in mainland China, enjoy.

Under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997 and which Beijing no longer considers to be in force, the city’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded until at least 2047. EFE-EPA


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