A bail hearing for 47 activists, election candidates and activists charged with national security crimes was resumed in Hong Kong after at least four defendants were transported by ambulance during Monday’s marathon session, which lasted until 3 a.m. A.M
The group has been charged under Hong Kong’s national security law with conspiracy to commit subversion in connection with an unofficial pan-democratic primary poll held last year before legislative elections that were later postponed.
Prosecutors requested that bail be denied and the case was postponed for three months to allow more time for the investigation. The defense objected, interrogation why had charges been filed if the case was so far from ready. As of 11 p.m. Monday, only six submissions had been processed.
Democrat and District Councilor Clarisse Yeung passed out in the courtroom around 1.45 a.m. and was rushed to the hospital. Businessman Mike Lam, District Councilor Roy Tam and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung “Long Hair” were also taken away by ambulance, according to local media. A co-defendant, Andy Chui Chi-kin, was reportedly admitted to the hospital for unknown reasons before Monday’s hearing.
A post on Yeung’s Facebook page said that he had lunch at noon and was not given food again until midnight due to long delays in court. She was on a saline drip and awaiting a CT scan Tuesday, he said.
The court had struggled to accommodate all members of the prosecution, the defense team and the 47 accused individuals. There were allegations that some defendants were unable to speak to their legal teams and further complications caused by the unexpected arrest of a defense attorney, reportedly on suspicion of obstructing officers.
More than 1,000 supporters gathered in front of the court on Monday to protest against the detention of what they call “political prisoners.” The South China Morning Post reported that 42 people had been fined for violating Covid-19 assembly rules, and the crowd did not return the next day.
Tuesday’s hearing began without Yeung’s attendance. Benny Tai, the accused organizer of the polls, was also not present as he appeared in court in a different case.
The authorities allege that the defendants conspired to select candidates who could win the majority of the 70 seats on the legislative council, with the intention of indiscriminately blocking the legislation, “paralyzing” the parliament and forcing the resignation of the executive director.
Fifty-five people were arrested at the polls in January, prompting international condemnation and skepticism even from some pro-Beijing politicians, who pointed out that the primary elections were unofficial but common on both sides of Hong Kong politics.
Authorities have not said whether they intend to charge the remaining eight, including US attorney John Clancey.
Using national security law, the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have mounted a broad and tough offensive against all signs of opposition, pledging to ensure that only “patriots” loyal to the Communist Party can rule Hong Kong.
The head of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office has called for the “severe punishment” of three prominent activists, two of whom are among those charged this week.
Xia Baolong said in a recent speech that jailed activist Joshua Wong and lawyer Tai were “the most vicious traitors,” according to a transcript published by pro-Beijing magazine Bauhinia.
China’s “two-session” parliamentary forums, which begin this week, are widely expected to announce new election laws for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu defended national security law in a webinar Monday during a meeting of the UN human rights council.
“The effect of the law is obvious and direct,” he said, according to a transcript. “The violence has decreased significantly. The defense of Hong Kong’s independence waned. People arrested for crimes related to public order incidents have been reduced by 50% in five months. Stability and order have been restored. “
Associated Press contributed to this report.