Veteran Hong Kong democrat granted bail in major national security case

Albert Ho's bail conditions include restrictions on speaking publicly on issues that might endanger national security. PHOTO: ALBERT HO/FACEBOOK

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - A Hong Kong court granted bail on Monday (Aug 22) to veteran pro-democracy politician Albert Ho after more than a year in detention on charges linked to a national security case.

Ho, 70, led the city's largest opposition group, the Democratic Party, and is a lawyer who runs his own law firm. He was earlier denied bail by a lower court magistrate.

Media has reported that he is in poor health and has lung cancer.

High Court judge Johnny Chan referred to Ho's health in his judgement, warning that if he committed any acts endangering national security "his bail will be revoked and he won't be able to receive any kind of private medical care".

His bail conditions include restrictions on speaking publicly or in the media on issues that might endanger national security, a ban on meeting foreign officials, and the surrender of all travel documents.

Ho stands accused with two others, Lee Cheuk-yan, 65 and Chow Hang-tung, 37, of inciting subversion of state power under a China-imposed national security law, given their leadership roles in a now disbanded group called the "Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China".

The court was also given new details of the case, including an assertion by the prosecution that one of the Alliance's "operational goals" was to "end one party dictatorship", or to overthrow the Communist Party of China.

The Alliance was set up in 1989 after Chinese troops cracked down and killed pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

For years it organised a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the crackdown to commemorate the victims.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula aimed at preserving various freedoms but pro-democracy politicians and activists say Beijing and the city's government are undermining those freedoms, including with the national security law.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials deny that and say foreign interference is endangering the financial hub's stability and prosperity.

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