Hong Kong court keeps 47 democracy activists in custody

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Former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, known as "Long Hair," second left, shows a victory sign and some of the 47 pro-democracy activists are escorted by Correctional Services officers to a prison van in Hong Kong, Thursday, March 4, 2021. A marathon court hearing for 47 pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong charged with conspiracy to commit subversion enters its fourth day on Thursday, as the court deliberates over whether the defendants will be granted bail. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG – A Hong Kong court on Thursday ordered all 47 pro-democracy activists charged under a Beijing-imposed national security law to be kept in custody after the Department of Justice appealed an initial decision to grant 15 of them bail.

Thirty-one of the activists were denied bail outright, with the co-founder of the 2014 Occupy Central protest movement, Benny Tai, withdrawing his bail application after he was ordered held in custody in a separate case.

The next hearing in the case will be on May 31.

The activists, aged 23 to 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the security law and detained on Sunday over their involvement in an unofficial primary election last year that authorities said was a plot to paralyze Hong Kong’s government.

The mass charges against the activists were the most sweeping action taken against the city’s pro-democracy camp since the national security law was implemented last June.

With the 47 remanded in custody, nearly all of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy figures will now be in jail or in self-exile abroad amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The 15 activists initially granted bail are to appear in court within 48 hours for a review of the decision.

Political party League of Social Democrats Chairman Avery Ng said after the hearing that the Department of Justice's appeal of the decision to grant bail to 15 of the defendants was “insidious" and "absurd, ridiculous and inhumane.”