3 student union leaders charged with advocating terrorism given bail as they do not pose further national security threat, HK judge says

04-Dec-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

A High Court judge has explained that she granted bail to three former leaders of the student union at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) accused of promoting terrorism because they do not pose a further threat to national security.

Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping gave details on Friday of her ruling in September to temporarily release Charles Kwok Wing-ho, 20, Kinson Cheung King-sang, 19, and Chris Todorovski Shing-hang, 18, despite objections from the prosecution.

The three, along with student Anthony Yung Chung-hei, 19, have been charged with advocating terrorism and an alternative count of incitement to wound with intent for passing a motion on July 7 expressing sympathy and appreciation for Leung Kin-fai, who killed himself after stabbing a police constable on July 1.

The four were the first to be charged with advocating terrorism since the Beijing-imposed national security law, which also bans acts of subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces, took effect on June 30 last year.

Cheung was chair of the student union council, while Kwok was its president and proposed the motion that was seconded by Todorovski, a residential hall representative, and supported by Yung from the Arts Association.

Following a public outcry, the motion was openly withdrawn within 30 hours of its resolution, with the students bowing in apology and resigning from their posts.

The four students in August were brought before acting chief magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen, who released Yung on bail and remanded the three others in custody. Prosecutors challenged Yung’s release but Toh upheld Law’s decision.

Both Toh and Law have been designated by the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to handle national security cases.

Under the new law, judges can only grant bail if they are satisfied the defendant will not endanger national security while awaiting trial, a higher threshold for granting release than what must be met in almost all other criminal cases.

At the bail application hearing on September 24, defence counsel Hectar Pun Hei SC noted the magistrate was not told his client Cheung, as council chair, had to maintain impartiality and did not vote for the motion, which he had no power to disallow.

Pun further argued that the prompt withdrawal and apology was a “voluntary discontinuation of the offence”, which also showed that Cheung’s likelihood of committing similar acts in the future would be minimal, as he was neither “determined” nor “resolute”.

His submissions were supported by HKU law Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, who wrote in a letter: “I believe that Kinson [Cheung] has now realised the mistake that he and his fellow students in the students’ union council have made, genuinely regrets what he has done, and has sincerely apologised for his mistake.”

In these circumstances, Toh said she “firmly” believed that Cheung would not engage in any speech or act that constituted an offence against national security if granted bail.

She also noted that Cheung, who was three years into his study of social sciences and law, had been an “outstanding student” since secondary school and held no foreign passport, right of abode or connections.

Similarly for Kwok and Todorovski, the judge noted they were academically accomplished students who no longer had any connection with the union or other organisations that might have political affiliations.

“Therefore, at the end of the hearing, I granted bail for all three applicants,” Toh concluded.

All four defendants are expected to return to District Court on January 20 next year.

Bail for the trio was set at HK$50,000 (US$6,410) each, plus HK$50,000 surety from a parent. The defendants must remain in Hong Kong and live at their addresses which cannot be any of the university’s residential halls obey a curfew and report to police at least three times a week.

They are barred from taking part in any student bodies, organising or participating in acts against the Hong Kong and central governments, and contacting any foreign officials.

Under Article 27 of the national security law, anyone convicted of advocating terrorism or inciting terrorist acts faces up to 10 years in prison plus a fine.



Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.