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Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, Hong Kong Protest Leaders, Freed on Bail

Granting the two men bail in a 10-minute hearing on Tuesday morning, Geoffrey Ma, the chief justice of the city’s Court of Final Appeal, said the possibility of their appeal application was not “entirely hopeless.”


Joshua Wong arriving at court on Tuesday in a prison van.

Bobby Yip/Reuters

Mr. Wong and Mr. Law were released on bail of 50,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $6,500. They were also ordered to surrender their travel documents and report to the police once a week until Nov. 7, when a court is set to hear their appeal application.

The imprisonment of Mr. Wong and Mr. Law stems from a September 2014 demonstration in which protesters stormed a courtyard outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters to protest the strict limits Beijing imposed on changes to the electoral system.

The protests and the forceful police response — first with batons and pepper spray, and then with tear gas — ignited what became known as the Umbrella Movement, as tent cities sprung up across the city where demonstrators used umbrellas as shields. The largely peaceful and orderly sit-ins paralyzed several major thoroughfares for 79 days but failed to win the protesters any political concessions.

The imprisonment of the activists came after a series of setbacks to the city’s pro-democracy politicians and parties.

Mr. Law, once elected as the youngest-ever member in the city’s legislature, was disqualified from office by a Hong Kong court that ruled he and several other lawmakers had inserted anti-China snubs into their oaths of office and rendered them invalid. The young politicians’ act of rebellion enraged Beijing, which ruled that candidates must solemnly read their oaths.

If Mr. Wong succeeds in reducing or overturning his prison sentence, he would probably become eligible to run for legislative office in elections in March.

The two activists, leaders of the Demosisto party they founded after the 2014 protests, were cheered by supporters outside court after their release, even as some expressed concern about their ultimate fate.

“The original prison sentence was an injustice,” said Avery Ng, a fellow pro-democracy activist. “I hope they can get some rest in the coming two weeks, and more importantly plan and mobilize to fight the political prosecution against the opposition camp,” he added.

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