Image result for Benny Tai, one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement Benny Tai: released on bail.

Benny Tai, one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement, was released on bail on Thursday, with the move coinciding with an even stronger wave of protests.

Tai, a law scholar at the University of Hong Kong, served three months of a 16-month sentence over his role in the pro-democracy protests that brought parts of the city to a standstill for 79 days in 2014.

The judge, who granted bail to Tai justified the decision by saying that appeal was unlikely to take place until a month before his sentence was set to end in March, according to the South China Morning Post.

His release comes as Hong Kong is experiencing its largest wave of protests in decades, sparked in June by a controversial extradition bill that has since been suspended.

Large protests led to the shutdown of Hong Kong International Airport earlier this week, stoking fears that Beijing could send in troops stationed in neighbouring Shenzhen to quell the unrest.

The Umbrella Movement, founded in 2014, grew out of Hong Kong residents’ discontent over Beijing’s proposal that the city leader be elected from a pre-approved pool of candidates.

Tai and sociologist Chan Kin-man were each sentenced to 16 months in jail over their role in the protests, while a third co-founder of the movement, 75-year-old Chu Yiu-ming, was given a suspended sentence.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997, is guaranteed a degree of independence under the “one country, two systems” principle.