Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance on Saturday dismissed prosecutors’ bail appeals with respect to three defendants charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, in what is the largest case to have been brought under the region’s national security law to date.
Of the 47 opposition figures charged on February 28, eight have now been released on bail. Four were released on March 5 after prosecutors revoked their challenge to the lower court’s bail decision. Another was released on Thursday after the High Court dismissed prosecutors’ appeal. A number of defendants have also had their bail revoked. Former opposition lawmakers Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Kwok Ka-ki are among those to have been remanded in custody after Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping overturned the lower court’s decision on Saturday and revoked their bail.
The 47 defendants charged in this sweeping case were among the 53 opposition figures arrested in early January for their involvement in the organization of an unofficial primary election in July. The arrests attracted severe criticism from rights groups at the time, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling them “the latest in a series of detentions related to the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly, in Hong Kong.” The ongoing court case continues to be the subject of much media and diplomatic scrutiny. Special attendance arrangements have had to be put in place at the High Court in order to cope with “excessive demand for seats” at the hearings.
Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping, who presided over the proceedings in the High Court, is expected to release the reasoning for her decisions in due course.