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Pro-democracy activists brought to court in Hong Kong

Hong Kong police on Monday brought 47 pro-democracy activists to court on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing last year.

The cases represent the largest mass charge against the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s opposition camp since the law came into effect last June. Supporters gathered outside the courthouse, displaying slogans in favor of the 2019 pro-democracy protests advocating greater local autonomy.

China has cracked down hard on such calls, demanding changes to the legal and educational systems to inculcate loyalty to the ruling Communist Party. The former lawmakers and democracy advocates had been previously arrested in a sweeping police operation in January but were released, only to be detained again on Sunday.

Supporters gesture as many people queue up outside a court to try to get in for a hearing in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. Pro-democracy activists detained by police on Sunday on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the sweeping national security law, are expected to appear in court. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Those arrested allegedly violated the national security law for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong’s legislature last year.

The pro-democracy camp had held the primaries to determine the best candidates to field to win a majority in the legislature and had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign.

In January, 55 activists and former lawmakers were arrested for their roles in the primaries. Authorities said that the activists’ participation was part of a plan to paralyze the city’s legislature and subvert state power.

Police officers stand guard as many supporters queue up outside a court to try to get in for a hearing in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. Pro-democracy activists detained by police on Sunday on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the sweeping national security law, are expected to appear in court. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

The security law criminalizes acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong’s affairs. Serious offenders could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Nearly 100 people have been arrested since the law was implemented.

A woman holds a British flag as supporters queue up outside a court to try get in for a hearing in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. People gathered outside the court Monday to show support for 47 activists who were detained over the weekend under a new national security law that was imposed on the city by Beijing last year. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Supporters queue up outside a court to try to get in for a hearing in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. Pro-democracy activists detained by police on Sunday on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the sweeping national security law, are expected to appear in court. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Police officers stand guard as supporters queue up outside a court to try get in for a hearing in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. People gathered outside the court Monday to show support for 47 activists who were detained over the weekend under a new national security law that was imposed on the city by Beijing last year. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

A man holds a poster featuring famous pro-democracy activists outside a court in Hong Kong Monday, March 1, 2021. People gathered outside the court Monday to show support for 47 activists who were detained over the weekend under a new national security law that was imposed on the city by Beijing last year. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)