The Court of Final Appeal has granted bail to eight protesters who were jailed over their involvement in the northeast New Territories protests outside the Legislative Council in 2014.
The activists granted bail include: Raphael Wong, Keal Lau, Ivan Lam, Kole Chow, Willis Ho, Wong Kan-yuen, Kwok Yiu-cheong and Chan Pak-shan.
They appeared before Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro on Friday. Raphael Wong waved and smiled to his supporters as he entered the courtroom.
In court, Justice Ribeiro said the Department of Justice did not oppose bail and that he was satisfied the circumstances were exceptional enough to grant it, pending leave for appeal.
The eight activists are required to pay a cash bail of HK$10,000 each, and must surrender their passports and report to police stations regularly.
Justice Ribeiro also said that, if bail was denied, the activists would have served a substantial part of their sentences, and that it was undesirable for a single permanent judge such as himself to make such a ruling. He said he preferred to defer the matter to the court.
In August, the activists were jailed for between eight and 13 months over their involvement in the protests outside the Legislative Council. The clashes were triggered by then-Finance Committee chair Ng Leung-sing’s attempts to end a filibuster by the pro-democracy camp over a controversial northeast New Territories development plan.
They had already finished serving their initial community service sentences handed down by the Magistrates Court, but the Department of Justice successfully sought harsher sentences.
In granting bail, Justice Ribeiro took note of the recent case involving democracy activist Joshua Wong. He said that – whilst he was not suggesting the circumstances were similar – Wong’s case provided background, in that leave was granted owing to questions of law and a substantial and grave injustice.
Last week, the Court of Appeal granted certification for the eight to proceed with their appeal applications. Although the remaining five activists were unsuccessful, or failed to make an application, they were still able to take the legal challenge directly to the city’s top court. All 13 protesters have since filed notices of appeal with the Court of Final Appeal.
The court earlier also granted bail pending appeal to democracy activists Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, who were jailed in another 2014 clash that sparked the pro-democracy Occupy protests. The three activists’ appeal hearing will take place January 16.
Appearing among supporters outside the court on Friday, Law said he expected the eight to be granted bail: “I hope when they come out, they will see our full support for them. We hope to fight with them on a very long path in the future.”
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, former lawmaker of the League of Social Democrats, said the 13 were all political prisoners: “We have no fear… Do they think we will be scared? They attack one of us, we will all fight back.”