Democracy activists in Hong Kong have staged the biggest protest against a new national security law in months.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the court in which 47 fellow activists appeared on Monday to face charges of conspiracy to commit subversion.
Police told the crowds that they too were in breach of the controversial national security law, reports the BBC.
The law came into force after a series of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, some of which turned violent. Beijing says it is needed to bring stability, but critics say it is designed to silence dissent.
The 47 pro-democracy activists appearing in court – 39 men and eight women, aged between 23 and 64 – were among a group of 55 people arrested in dawn raids last month.
They had helped run an unofficial “primary” election last June to pick opposition candidates for 2020 legislative elections, which the government then postponed. Beijing and Hong Kong officials say the primary was an attempt to overthrow the government.
On Monday, police officers were deployed to control the crowds outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court before the hearing, as pro-democracy supporters queued for seats at the court hearing. Most of them wore black, the colour of choice by protesters.
Some chanted slogans including “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”. Slogans which the government says breach the National Security Law.
A few pro-Beijing supporters were also present, in a celebratory mood. One of their banners read: “Severely punish traitors and those who sell out the country: all of them will be jailed after the National Security Law.”
The court adjourned early on Tuesday after a democracy activist fainted during the marathon hearing, reports Reuters.
Following over 12 hours of submissions from defence lawyers on bail applications that ran far into Monday night, district councillor Clarisse Yeung fainted in the courtroom and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance.
The magistrate, Victor So, adjourned proceedings to later on Tuesday, with around half the defendants’ applications yet to be heard.