Tons of of Hong Kongers have defied the specter of prosecution to protest towards the charging of 47 pro-democracy politicians swept up within the metropolis’s greatest nationwide safety legislation case.
Gathered outdoors a bail listening to for the arrested activists on Monday, protesters chanted slogans together with “Regain HK, revolution of our instances”, a phrase authorities mentioned violated the safety legislation.
The previous elected lawmakers and activists — who included Joshua Wong, the opposition chief already jailed in a separate case — had been charged with subversion on Sunday in a transfer that highlighted the federal government’s willpower to crush dissent within the metropolis, critics mentioned.
Jake Sullivan, US nationwide safety adviser, mentioned the detentions underscored China’s “damaged guarantees to the world about Hong Kong’s autonomy & democratic rights”.
“We stand in solidarity with these courageous activists,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter.
In a separate assertion, Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, referred to as for his or her fast launch. “Political participation and freedom of expression shouldn’t be crimes,” he mentioned.
Beijing imposed the national security law final June to quell pro-democracy protests that kicked off in 2019. Most distinguished activists are in jail, on bail or have fled abroad.
The US condemnation, which got here regardless of Beijing warning the Biden administration final month to not intrude within the territory, adopted criticism from the UK and the EU.
“It exhibits within the starkest phrases the nationwide safety legislation getting used to remove political dissent fairly than restore order,” mentioned Dominic Raab, the UK international secretary.
The 47 activists charged on Sunday had been amongst 55 pro-democracy politicians arrested by police in January.
The activists had been concerned in an unofficial main vote by the opposition to pick out the preferred politicians to run in an election for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, town’s de facto parliament.
Police charged the activists with “conspiracy to commit subversion”, a criminal offense below the nationwide safety legislation that’s punishable with as much as life imprisonment. The authorities allege the first was a part of a technique to topple the federal government.
John Clancey, an American human rights lawyer primarily based in Hong Kong who was detained in January and have become the first expatriate to be arrested below the safety legislation, was not charged.
Willy Lam, a China knowledgeable on the Chinese language College of Hong Kong, mentioned the arrests underscored the intensifying squeeze on the opposition.
“What constitutes a breach of the nationwide safety legislation will depend on the willpower of the authorities and it is comparatively simple for them to make use of blanket laws to incriminate politicians or activists who they suppose . . . have completed one thing detrimental to the authority of the central authorities,” he mentioned, referring to Beijing.
The bail listening to on Monday was tense. Police maintained a heavy presence to maintain watch over the throngs of supporters, lots of whom had lined up for hours outdoors the court docket.
On Sunday, the politicians hugged farewell to family members and waved goodbye to supporters earlier than giving themselves as much as police. Some swapped to eyeglasses with plastic frames and footwear with out shoelaces in anticipation of being detained for a protracted interval.
“Regardless of how tough will probably be. I wish to inform the entire Hong Kong individuals, irrespective of the place you’re, to maintain trustworthy and to be hopeful and to proceed our wrestle,” mentioned Lester Shum, one of many arrested politicians, as he held his spouse’s fingers.
The introduction of the safety legislation has unleashed a crackdown on town’s beforehand freewheeling civic life. Lecturers have been disqualified, journalists arrested and civil servants compelled to swear loyalty oaths.
China has additionally signalled a deeper shake-up of the electoral system, saying it desires to make sure solely “patriots govern Hong Kong”.