Hundreds of democratic supporters gathered outside Hong Kong courts, chanting slogans, flashing protest symbols, and appearing in the dock, where some of the city’s most famous opposition were charged with destruction.
Beijing is fighting to challenge in semi-autonomous Hong Kong after a large number of people hit the streets in 2019 with a large and sometimes violent democracy demonstration.
Once a bohemian financial hub was covered by national security law, coronavirus protection bans more than four people from rallying.
Police on Sunday charged 47 major dissidents with a plot that committed destruction in the largest use of security law to date.
A hearing on Monday triggered a resurgence of rebellion from the general public in a city where protests were largely outlawed.
Hundreds of people lined up outside the courtroom at one of the largest rallies in months as police maintained a heavy presence.
Several advocated slogans, including “Liberating all political prisoners” and “Liberation of Hong Kong, a revolution in our time”-the latter slogan authorities say it is now illegal under security law I will.
Others have flashed the salute of the three-finger “The Hunger Games” accepted by fellow democratic activists in Thailand and Myanmar.
Tensions went up and down throughout the afternoon as police raised flags warning that illegal rallies were taking place and that protesters were chanting and violating national security law.
Police officers could be seen stopping and searching for several young men outside the courtroom, but the crowd did not disperse.
“I was imprisoned, banished, and charged.”
Local councilman Kwan Chun-san was one of dozens of people who camped overnight to bag the place in front of the court’s public gallery line.
“I decided to come here and spend the night right after being charged yesterday,” Kwan told AFP. “I would like to show my support for democratic activists.”
A small group of nationalist protesters raised a flag welcoming the alleged capsizing.
“We will severely punish traitors, enact national security legislation, and throw them all behind the bar,” read a sign.
Defendants represent a wide range of Hong Kong opponents, from veteran former Democrats to scholars, lawyers, social workers and many youth activists.
So many were indicted that authorities had to open three other courts to respond to the spill.
The proceedings were postponed late in the afternoon after a brief appearance by the indicted.
Criminal charges of people arrested for destruction were partially dominated by the Democratization Promotion Block for the first time, organizing an informal primary election last summer, hoping to block government legislature. It was to select the elected legislative candidates.
Officials in China and Hong Kong saw the primary as an attempt to “overthrow” the city’s government and therefore a threat to national security.
They were arrested in a series of dawn attacks in January and charged on Sunday for a “capsizing plot.” This is one of the newly defined new national security crimes. If convicted, they face life imprisonment.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has led international criticism of the latest accusations and called for the immediate release of the group. Western nations have accused Beijing of breaking the freedom and autonomy that Hong Kong promised to maintain prior to the transfer of territory from Britain.
The UK and the European Union said the accusation indicated that the law was being used to target political objections rather than a real threat to national security.
China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed US criticism on Monday, saying Beijing “resolutely supports Hong Kong police to protect not only Hong Kong’s security and stability, but also national security.”
Last year, a security law was imposed on the city, criminalizing what was considered destruction, separation, terrorism, or collusion with foreign troops.
The wording of the law and its subsequent application successfully suppressed complaints, outlawed many political views, and radically changed Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous relationship with the authoritarian mainland.
Indicted people can usually be expected to be detained for several months before trial, as the law usually removes the territorial tradition of allowing bail for nonviolent crimes.
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