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Joshua Wong

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong granted bail as he appeals jailing over Occupy protests

Demosisto secretary general, along with the League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong, sentenced to prison for blocking clearance of Mong Kok occupation in 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:43pm

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was on Tuesday granted bail pending an appeal, six days after a Hong Kong court jailed him for contempt of court during the 2014 Occupy protests.

Raphael Wong Ho-ming, jailed in the same case, was denied bail. But his appeal hearing was expedited to March 5 as requested by his counsel Martin Lee Chu-ming SC.

The Court of Appeal ruling came after a brief afternoon hearing before Chief Judge of the High Court Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung and Court of Appeal vice-president Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon.

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The judges released Joshua Wong after finding that one of his grounds of appeal against the sentence was arguable. They also considered his young age, length of sentence, likely hearing date, local ties, and the lack of a risk of absconding.

But they ruled against Raphael Wong, despite concluding he had no risk of fleeing from his relatively short sentence, as they saw that he had no arguable grounds to support his appeal against liability.

Speaking after his release, Joshua Wong thanked his lawyers and urged the appeal courts to lay down clear guidelines in sentencing young people involved in civil disobedience movements.

“I am the lucky one,” he said. “But I am not in a good mood at all because today, I arrived at the High Court with Raphael Wong, but I’m the only one who was granted bail.”

The two Wongs had applied for bail last Wednesday upon receiving their jail terms. But Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai of the Court of First Instance rejected that application at the time, saying he had no jurisdiction to release them, prompting the present application.

Joshua Wong, 21, the secretary general of Demosisto, was jailed for three months after admitting contempt of court; League of Social Democrats vice-president Raphael Wong, 29, received a jail term of four months and 15 days after he was found liable in the civil trial.

Chan said in jailing the pair that they had defied a court order secured by a local drivers’ group for occupiers to leave the scene. He said they played either a “leading” or “significant” role in blocking the clearance of a major protest site in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014.

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On Tuesday, the pair waved and nodded to friends and supporters as they were led into the dock by correctional services officers.

Cheung noted at the hearing’s outset that the higher Court of Final Appeal had been prepared to grant bail in recent cases even before a successful application for leave to appeal. In a separate case also related to the Occupy protests, Joshua Wong was released on bail ahead of his leave application hearing. Raphael Wong was similarly released pending his appeal against another unlawful assembly charge over a protest in June 2014.

“We wonder if a lower threshold [than] showing an arguable case should be adopted in this type of matter,” Cheung said. “It would appear to us that unless the court can say with reasonable certainty the grounds put forward are wholly unarguable, the bail application should be decided primarily on other considerations, such as the length of sentence, the likely hearing date, the risk of absconding, so and so forth.”

But prosecutor Jin Pao stressed that Joshua Wong faced “a high hurdle” in arguing his sentence was wrong in principle and manifestly excessive. Pao added that the grounds of appeal raised by Raphael Wong were “not reasonably arguable”.

The High Court heard that each man had raised three grounds of appeal.

Joshua Wong is challenging the trial judge’s finding that he played a leading role in obstructing the clearance. His other grounds of appeal questioned whether the judge had considered his young age or the fact that he was jailed for six months over another Occupy-related protest in deciding his punishment.

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Meanwhile, Raphael Wong argued that his mere presence at the scene did not amount to an obstruction. He explained that he had difficulties leaving the area at the time. He also challenged whether criminal contempt was the appropriate charge given that police officers were obstructed that day, but not the court-appointed bailiffs.

Having considered the matter for 20 minutes, Cheung said it could be argued that the lower court “had not given any, or sufficient, consideration” to Joshua Wong’s young age in its sentencing.

The student leader was then released on HK$10,000 bail, on the condition that he remain in Hong Kong and reside in his reported address, and regularly report to the Aberdeen Police Station.