Hong Kong detains 47 activists on subversion charges

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John Clancey, right, an American lawyer who became the first foreigner arrested under Hong Kong's national security law, displays a book before appearing at a police station in Hong Kong Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. Clancey appeared at a police station Sunday, following a surprise request from police Friday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong police on Sunday detained 47 pro-democracy activists on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the city's national security law, in the largest mass charge against the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's opposition camp since the law came into effect last June.

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

They allegedly violated the national security law that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong's legislature last year.

The defendants include 39 men and eight women aged between 23 and 64, police said.

The move is part of a continuing crackdown on the city's democracy movement, with a string of arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong's democracy proponents — including outspoken activists Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai — following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

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.