CANDICE CHAU | HONG KONG FREE PRESS
Hundreds of people queued up outside a Hong Kong court on Monday to support 47 democrats charged under the national security law. They were detained on Sunday following their participation in a primary election for the now-postponed legislative council election last year.
Over 200 citizens lined up outside the West Kowloon Law Courts building on Monday morning in the hope of getting a seat inside the magistrates’ court as the activists and democrats attended court.
The 47 politicians and activists appeared in court on Monday charged with a count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.”
Many people dressed in black to show solidarity with the charged democrats, as some from Citizens’ Radio held up banners that read “release all political prisoners” with the signatures of supporters.
Ex-lawmaker Roy Kwong was one of the eight people among 55 arrested in January who were not charged on Sunday. He was spotted lining up outside the court along with former lawmakers Fernando Cheung and Lee Wing-tat, Democratic Party chairperson Lo Kin-hei, and Figo Chan, convenor of Civil Human Rights Front.
As people queued up, some started chanting political slogans from the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests such as “five demands, not one less,” “Hong Kong people, add oil” and “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.” The latter slogan has been deemed illegal under the security law.
A police officer could be seen recording the scene as the chanting continued.
At around 10am, court staffers went outside to tell people queuing up that all tickets were distributed and the chances of people waiting outside the court to get a seat were slim.
A Ms. Wong, who was told that she was unlikely to get into court, told HKFPthat she would still wait for the hearing to end outside the building.
“Of course I will keep on lining up, since I had the heart to come here in the first place,” said Wong. “I think the government is outrageous, I don’t know what they are doing.”
Several pro-Beijing protesters also gathered chanting slogans such as “supporting the police to enforce the law strictly,” and “supporting the national security law.” They were also waving the Chinese national flag and Hong Kong’s regional flag.
The dmeocrats, 55 pro-democracy activists were arrested for allegedly attempting to paralyse the government by trying to win a majority with strategic voting at the Legislative Council with their “35+” plan.
Diplomats queue up
Apart from supporters of the pro-democracy activists and pro-Beijing protesters, some diplomats from foreign consulates were also lining up to hear the case in court.
Deputy Head of Office at the the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao Charles Whiteley told HKFP that he was there to monitor the hearing.
“Last July, the 27 EU foreign ministers agreed on a nine-point response package to the national security law, and one of the points was that we should follow the trials of the pro-democracy activists very closely,” said Whiteley.
“Hence we’re here today to follow what happens with the 47 pro-democracy activists, with other members of the international community.”
Whiteley also referenced to the EU response to the charge on Sunday, where the office said on Twitter that the charge was “of great concern,” and that the situation made clear that “legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong.”
The British Consulate General Hong Kong and the Consulate General of Canada also sent representatives to attend the court hearing.
Jonathan Williams from the British Consulate General Hong Kong told Bloomberg that the charge was “deeply concerning” to the British government.
“To be clear, the UK has full faith in the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong, that’s not why we’re at the court today,” said Williams. “We’re here because it’s the latest case, [and the] number of charges being brought under the national security law… 47 individuals are being charged today. The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities promised that the national security law will be used in a very narrow sense, it’s clear that that is no longer being the case, and that’s deeply concerning to us.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter on Sunday that the decision to charge the 47 was “deeply disturbing.”
“It shows in the starkest terms the NSL [national security law] being used to eliminate political dissent rather than restore order,” said Raab on Twitter.