HK national security law: lawyers file urgent bail application in bid to overturn ban on detained former party chief attending his father’s funeral

10-May-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Lawyers for the detained former leader of Hong Kong’s biggest opposition party have filed an urgent bail application in a last-ditch bid to get round a prison ruling barring the ex-lawmaker from attending his father’s funeral.

The Democratic Party’s Wu Chi-wai, who is remanded in custody ahead of three coming trials, was denied permission to pay his respects in person at Friday’s ceremony, with prison authorities offering to live-stream proceedings for him instead.

The 58-year-old former chair of the party has been charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law and is also facing trials for two other criminal offences.

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A bail hearing has been fixed for 9.30am at the High Court on Friday just hours before the evening memorial service for Wu’s late 92-year-old father.

Earlier, lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan, another ex-chair of the party, said a legal team hired by the political outfit to represent Wu intended to ask Court of First Instance judge Esther Toh Lye-ping to hear the application on Thursday afternoon.

But the hearing was timetabled for the following day after the Department of Justice demanded more time to prepare for the case.

A second source said the party had also asked the Correctional Services Department once more to reconsider Wu’s case.

“Wu has the support of the whole party, though its finances are now in the red,” he said.

Wu’s situation sparked an outcry a day ago, with critics accusing the prison authorities of being “inhumane”.

Rejecting media reports the decision to bar Wu from attending the funeral was politically motivated, the department said subsidiary legislation required officials to take into account factors such as security risks, possible escape routes and the charges involved when processing such requests.

Its spokesman said it noted online calls for others to attend the funeral to show support, so it had a duty to protect its staff and Wu.

Wu has been detained since January pending trials but has yet to be convicted of any offences. He is facing one count of conspiracy to subvert state power under the security law for his role in an unofficial primary election last year.

He is also facing criminal charges in two other cases, one of which accused him of taking part in an authorised assembly on July 1, 2019, when the city was gripped by protests sparked by the now-abandoned extradition bill.

Wu, who was originally granted bail, was brought back to court in connection with that case after police discovered he had breached his bail conditions by failing to hand over his British National (Overseas) passport. His bail was revoked at West Kowloon Court.

The application to be heard on Friday is likely to involve arguments on whether an accused person under the national security law, which imposes a high threshold for bail compared with other general offences, can be granted bail under such a rare circumstance.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, who chairs the Legislative Council’s security panel, questioned whether it would be appropriate to let Wu out of prison for the funeral given he had been charged with a national security offence.

But Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, from the Society of Community Organisation, which advocates for prisoners’ rights, said the more stringent bail requirements imposed by the security law should not be confused with the department’s discretionary powers.


Category: Hong Kong

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