A High Court judge who refused to grant bail to a protester charged with incitement to secession says he’s not convinced that the activist would not re-offend if he’s granted bail.
Ma Chun-man, dubbed “Captain America 2.0”, is accused of inciting others to committing secession by repeatedly chanting slogans and displaying placards advocating Hong Kong independence between August and November this year.
He has been remanded in custody since November, ahead of his next court hearing slated for February 10 next year.
High Court judge Alex Lee dismissed Ma’s application for bail on December 15, and in his written ruling released on Tuesday, he said he’s not satisfied that Ma would abide by his undertaking not to repeat pro-independence slogans or views.
Lee noted that the activist had already been arrested six times for related offences – once for unlawful assembly, once for inciting an unlawful assembly, once for incitement to secession and three times for seditious intention – before this latest case.
The judge said on five out of the six occasions when he was granted police bail, he repeated the same or similar conduct almost immediately upon release, adding that Ma’s speeches also appeared to become more radical over time.
The judge also dismissed the argument by Ma’s lawyer that the chances of his client found guilty are small as the national security law does not criminalise “peaceful advocacy of secessionist ideas” if it is interpreted in a way that’s consistent with the Basic Law.
Lee said freedom of speech and freedom of expression, under the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights, are not absolute rights and can be subject to restrictions.
He said if the activist had meant what he was alleged to have said, then his alleged chanting of slogans like “All People be Valiant” and “Armed Revolt” was apparently not a peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Lee also rejected the defence argument that it’s unlikely that Ma’s alleged acts would lead to a lengthy sentence. He said while no one has been sentenced yet over national security offences, Ma could receive a custodial sentence if convicted.
He said while it seems that Ma’s case is not the most serious of its type, he’s not satisfied that Ma – if convicted -- would receive a sentence as short as three months as his lawyer had suggested.
The judge noted that if the trial date cannot be fixed in the near future, it may eventually come to a stage when it could be unjust to detain him any longer. But Lee said he expects a date to be set in April, and that Ma could still consider applying for another bail review if the trial has to be further delayed.
Protester denied bail over 'risk of re-offending'
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