HK national security law: Tiananmen Square vigil activists refuse bail, saying liberty in exchange for free speech is a price not worth paying

23-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Two leaders of the group behind Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil have decided to stay in prison despite being granted bail ahead of a national security law trial, saying they will not comply with conditions that restrict their freedom of speech.

Acting chief magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen on Friday granted temporary release to five former executive members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, who were jointly accused of failing to provide information for a police investigation.

Former vice-chairwoman Chow Hang-tung, and standing committee members Leung Kam-wai, Tsui Hon-kwong, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan To-wai, denied the allegation, saying the alliance was not a foreign agent and had no obligation to heed the request. A trial date has yet to be fixed.

Law, who is among a pool of jurists hand-picked by city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to oversee security law proceedings, said he was satisfied the risk of releasing the five on bail had been sufficiently reduced, as there was little chance of them tampering with the evidence police seized or helping other suspects escape.

Moments after the bail decision was heard at West Kowloon Court, Chow and Leung applied to have it revoked on the grounds they were unable to accept the magistrate’s order to refrain from speeches and acts that could “reasonably” be suspected to constitute a national security offence.

Chow, a barrister by profession, said the condition was “too unclear that I don’t know how to follow it”, adding she would not exchange free speech for liberty.

A lawyer for Leung, chair of Kwai Tsing District Council, said the defendant would decline any conditions barring him from taking questions from the press, as it was part of his public duties.

Law refused the pair’s requests, saying their liberty was in their own hands. “You can refuse to sign out,” he added.

The magistrate released the remaining three on cash bonds of up to HK$10,000 (US$1,290), and ordered them to observe a travel ban, surrender all travel documents and report to police once a week. The three were also told to refrain from acts and speeches that could endanger national security. Another pretrial hearing was scheduled for January 25.

The five were arrested on September 8 after refusing to give national security officers details about the group’s members, financial reports and activities.

Under the security law’s implementation rules, the police commissioner can request a range of information from a suspected foreign agent or one with links to Taiwan. Individuals who refuse to comply can face six months behind bars.

Critics have argued the new requirement runs contrary to the common law principle that suspects cannot be forced to prove their own guilt.

In August, the alliance said it would disband after 32 years. The Security Bureau has started the process of revoking the group’s company registration, citing alleged violations of the Beijing-imposed legislation.

Chow was also charged alongside the alliance, group chair Lee Cheuk-yan and vice-chair Albert Ho Chun-yan with inciting subversion. She was denied bail in that case.


Category: Hong Kong

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