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Hundreds gather as 47 HK pro-democracy figures appear in court

Hundreds gather as 47 HK pro-democracy figures appear in court

dpa
Hong Kong
Forty-seven high-profile pro-democracy activists appeared in court Monday on charges related to China’s national security law and a hearing for bail applications was still under way.  The activists, who were initially charged last year, were asked to report to police stations across Hong Kong on Sunday, but were held overnight, prior to Monday’s court appearance.
The 47 were charged with conspiring to subvert state power - one of four violations under Hong Kong’s controversial new national security law - alongside secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Live video footage outside of the West Kowloon Magistrates Court showed hundreds of supporters - many dressed in black, the colour adopted during the year-long pro-demonstrations - holding banners asking for their release, and chanting slogans.  “’Liberate #HongKong, revolution of our times rings out outside court as hundreds gather to support the pro-democracy campaigners charged with subversion,” local broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) posted on Twitter.
The charges are in relation to an unofficial primary election which brought 600,000 people to the polling stations over the weekend of July 11-12 to vote for candidates in the September 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections.
The poll, dubbed “Democrat Camp 35+ Primary Election,” aimed to hand democrats a majority at LegCo, which would have given the opposition camp power to veto legislation.
However, the government later deemed the poll “illegal” and barred 12 candidates - including Joshua Wong, who received 40,000 votes - from running in the election.
Weeks later, Chief Executive Carrie Lam postponed the LegCo election for a year, citing precautions to curb the coronavirus pandemic.  Formal charges against those involved in the primaries came amid a police crackdown in January. Several later had their charges dropped.
Wong, who is currently in jail serving 13 months on other protest-related charges, ex-law professor Benny Tai, and lead members of League of Social Democrats (LSD) Jimmy Sham and veteran activist Leung Kwok-hung, are some of the well known public figures held under the charges in question.
Speaking to dpa, LSD vice chair Avery Ng said that the court case was “historical blatant oppression.” “With one sweeping action, the government locked up almost all opposition leaders [under] the pretence of national security,” Ng said.
“Participating in a primary election is now considered to be a threat to national security. We are descending into a very cold and dark age of fear,” he added.
Since the new law was ushered in last year, those accused of security violations have been facing harsh prison sentences of between three and ten years and life imprisonment.
China continues to brush off widespread criticism for implementing Hong Kong’s new security law.
Britain accused it of violating a joint Sino-British declaration - an agreement made between the two countries prior to the 1997 handover, designed to protect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers under China’s sovereignty.

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