47 pro-democracy activists detained on subversion charges in Hong Kong


They will appear in court on March 1.

Forty-seven Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were charged on February 28 with conspiracy to commit subversion, in the largest single crackdown on the opposition under a China-imposed national security law. They will appear in court March 1 morning.

The former lawmakers and democracy advocates had been previously arrested in January but were released. They are currently detained again and will appear in court on Monday, police said in a statement.

They allegedly violated the new national security law that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for the semi-autonomous territory’s legislature last year.

Sam Cheung, a young activist and a participant in an unofficial primary election last summer, was charged after reporting to a local police station, dressed in a black mask and accompanied by his wife. “Hong Kongers have a really tough time these days,” he told reporters before entering the station. “I hope everyone won’t give up on Hong Kong … (and) fight on.”

Mr. Cheung was arrested in a dawn raid along with more than 50 other democrats on January 6 in the largest national security operation since the law’s passage last June. They were accused of organising and participating in an unofficial “primary election” last July aimed at selecting the strongest candidates for a legislative council election.

The activists were detained at the time, questioned, and then released pending further investigations.

“My chance of bail won’t be too great,” wrote Benny Tai in an earlier social media post. He was also charged and accused by the Chinese authorities of being a key tactician for the pro-democracy movement.

Those called in by the Hong Kong police also include a group of younger “resistance camp” democratic activists including Lester Shum, Sam Cheung, Ventus Lau and Fergus Leung.

The activists denounced the arrests as political persecution for the informal and peaceful poll that drew 600,000 votes in a city of 7.5 million.

A rights advocacy group, “Power for Democracy”, that co-organised the primary elections, said in a Facebook post it had disbanded.

The Hong Kong police say 99 individuals have been arrested for suspected violations of the security laws so far. Some of them have been denied bail, including media mogul and prominent China critic Jimmy Lai, despite protracted legal appeals.

The sweeping national security laws — seen by critics as a threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy — punish acts of subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with possible life imprisonment.

With inputs from AP

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