Hong Kong, Mar 1 (efe-epa).- Hundreds surrounded a court Monday in Hong Kong to show support for 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists who made their first appearance before the judge a day after police charged them for conspiring to subvert state power under a national security law.
In an event not seen since the enforcement of coronavirus-related social distancing rules months ago, and since the Beijing-imposed security law took effect in the city in June, the pro-democracy crowd grew in the early morning outside West Kowloon Magistrate.
Supporters, many clad in black – the color of anti-government protests – snaked around the court and numerous buildings hoping to attend the pre-trial review hearing for the 47 dissidents, which began at about 11.00 (3.00 GMT). They chanted slogans, including “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of the times,” now banned under the security law.
The 47, who include some of the most familiar faces in Hong Kong politics such as legal scholar Benny Tai, Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party and Joshua Wong, currently in jail, were among 55 people arrested by police on Jan. 6 and Jan 7.
They were alleged to have attempted to paralyze the government through their participation or involvement in an unofficial primary organized by the city’s pro-democracy camp in July 2020.
The 55 were initially scheduled to report to the police in April, but on Feb. 26, they were unexpectedly told to turn up at designated police stations on Feb. 28.
Police announced Sunday that 39 men and eight women, aged 23 to 64, had been charged with one count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.” Eight of the 55, including American human rights lawyer John Clancey, have not yet been charged.
The police’s decision to charge the democracy activists has drawn a backlash from the international community. The European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macau issued a statement expressing “great concern” at the charges. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the “deeply disturbing” proof that Beijing was using the security law to eliminate dissent. EFE-EPA