Judge cites petition to US politicians in rejecting bail for Hong Kong democracy advocate

Published (HKT): 2021.04.23 06:30

A former pro-democracy lawmaker has failed to secure bail in a national security case because he had written to American politicians to lobby for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

This is according to a judgment handed down by the High Court on denying bail for Jeremy Tam. The defendant is among 47 politicians and democracy advocates who have been charged for organizing or participating in the pro-democracy camp’s primary poll last year ahead of a Legislative Council election.

Some 600,000 Hongkongers cast their votes at the time, but the official election was later postponed on COVID-19 concerns. It was further delayed this year after Beijing imposed drastic changes to the city’s electoral system, reducing the chances of democrats winning any meaningful amount of seats.

The camp’s pre-election polling was originally meant to increase the odds of democrats winning a majority in the legislature.

Madam Justice Esther Toh of the High Court said in her judgment, which was made available to reporters on Thursday, that Tam was an influential public figure who was involved with lobbying for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a United States bill that became law in November 2019 and put Hong Kong’s special status as a highly autonomous Chinese region under tighter scrutiny by Washington.

The court earlier heard that Tam signed a petition to the U.S. Senate and Congress in September 2019, urging his American counterparts to pass the bill quickly.

Prior to the pre-election last year, he also vowed to take part in a campaign to form a majority in LegCo and pressurize the authorities to heed their democratic demands by vetoing government bills, the court heard. Those factors were considered in assessing whether Tam could reoffend on bail, Toh said in explaining her reasons for rejecting his application.

The judgment also covered activist Andy Chui, an opposition district councilor. Toh found that Chui intended to incite hatred on a Facebook post in which he claimed the Chinese military had a plan to jam telecommunications signals in Hong Kong in order to suppress the free flow of information.

The 47 were charged in February with “conspiracy to commit subversion.” Only 11 of them have been released on bail so far.

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