The appeals court of Hong Kong has granted bail to prominent pro-democracy student activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law.
On Tuesday, the city’s highest court granted bail pending an appeal over their jail terms for unlawful assembly linked to the city’s mass pro-democracy protests in 2014.
Hong Kong Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, who heads the Court of Final Appeal, granted Wong and Law bail of HK$50,000 (US$6,408) each while they appeal against their respective six-month and eight-month jail terms.
Lucky to have been released on bail, but probable jail time again in a few weeks – spending time with family today. Thx for your support!
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) October 24, 2017
“There’s no flight risk,” Ma told the court. A third activist Alex Chow did not apply for bail.
The activists were sentenced back in August for their role in the Chinese ruled city’s democracy movement, coming as a blow to the youth-led push for universal suffrage and prompting accusations of political interference.
The trio helped lead the largely peaceful “Umbrella Movement” that blocked major roads for 79 days in 2014, demanding Beijing grant Hong Kong full democracy.
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since its return from British to Chinese rule in 1997, allowing freedoms not enjoyed on mainland China that include an independent judiciary.
Speaking to the media, Wong said that inside prison “correctional officers warned me not to invite other prisoners to voice concerns over this issue, otherwise I would be inciting disorder,” as quoted by Hong Kong Free Press.
Given there is limited access to news media in jail, Wong said “it makes you feel distant to any big issues happening in the world … this is part of the training for us … how do we train our minds so that we are still curious about the outside world?”
Ma said a Court of Final Appeal hearing would be held on Nov 7 to consider the trio’s applications for appeal. The next legal steps will likely be scrutinised closely, with the jailings having shaken confidence in Hong Kong’s vaunted rule of law.
Wong, Chow and Law were sentenced last year to community service for unlawful assembly. However, Reuters reported that Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen had overruled other senior colleagues to re-open the case and push for a harsher sentence that eventually led to their imprisonment.
A group of senior international lawyers recently issued a joint letter saying the jailings posed a serious threat to the city’s rule of law.
Originally published on our sister website Asian Correspondent. Additional reporting by Reuters