Benny Tai granted bail pending appeal of his conviction

August 16, 2019 17:15
Benny Tai is welcomed by his wife, son and pro-democracy lawmakers following his release on bail on Thursday. Photo: HKEJ

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of the three founders of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy Movement, has been released from prison after the High Court granted him a HK$100,000 bail pending an appeal against his conviction and sentencing, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Tai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), was found guilty in April of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and inciting others to cause a public nuisance in connection with the 79-day pro-democracy protests.

Justice Andrew Colin Macrae, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, scheduled the hearing dates for Feb. 24 to 26 next year, saying the appeal will not be heard this year because there are a number of defendants and many documents involved in the case. He also cited the long duration of the appeal process.

Tai had been sentenced to 64 weeks in prison. Macrae said he got his sentence reduced by a third. And since Tai had already served 16 weeks of his sentence, he was supposed to remain in jail for another 26-27 weeks.

This meant that he could be released on March 14 next year at the earliest.

Macrae said Tai presented several arguments in his petition for bail, including the assertion that his conviction was unconstitutional and inappropriate, his behavior did not cause common harm to the public, and all he had done was only a form of civil disobedience.

The judge also cited HKU law professor and honorary senior counsel Johannes Chan Man-mun, one of the lawyers representing Tai, as saying that Tai deserved to be granted bail since the dates set for the hearing are only less than two weeks before Tai can be freed.

Director of Public Prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin was not against the granting of bail, considering the short time left between the scheduled hearing and Tai's release, although he did not accept all the reasons given by Tai, according to the judge.

Macrae said Leung also agreed that the risk of Tai absconding is not huge as he had already been convicted.

In granting him bail, the judge also ordered Tai to stay at the address he had given pending his appeal. He also has to surrender his passport and cannit leave Hong Kong during the period.

Upon his release on bail, Tai was welcomed by his wife and his son, two Democratic Party lawmakers and its former chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan.

Tai told reporters that he is certain that Hong Kong can get through this difficult time because there are so many citizens willing to do things for the city out of their love for the place, RTHK reported.

“Even though the road ahead is very unclear, and would be very difficult, very tough, I still have confidence that the future of Hong Kong must be bright," the broadcaster quoted Tai as saying.

“The golden era is yet to come. And I believe that the time is not too far away.”

He had only read little news about the recent protests in prison, he was deeply touched to know that so many citizens made enormous sacrifices to defend the city's core values.

For him, he said, the most touching image of the protests was when some protesters tried to carry away four of their fellow protesters who stormed the Legislative Council complex on July 1 

For him, he said, the most touching image of the protests that he saw was when some protesters tried to carry away four of their fellow protesters, who initially refused to leave the scene after storming the Legislative Council complex on July 1.

Asked whether he would join the march scheduled for this Sunday, Tai said he wanted to spend more time with his family first.

He also said he would like to understand the incidents that have happened in recent months before deciding whether he would participate in the protest.

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