Hong Kong police have brought 47 pro-democracy activists to court on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing last year.
The cases represent the largest mass charge against the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s opposition camp since the law came into effect last June.
Supporters gathered outside the courthouse, displaying slogans in favour of the 2019 pro-democracy protests advocating greater local autonomy.
China has cracked down hard on such calls, demanding changes to the legal and educational systems to instil loyalty to the ruling Communist Party.
The former lawmakers and democracy advocates had been previously arrested in a sweeping police operation in January but were released, only to be detained again on Sunday.
Those arrested allegedly violated the national security law for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong’s legislature last year.
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 paralyse the city’s legislature and subvert state power.
The security law criminalises acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong’s affairs.
Serious offenders could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Nearly 100 people have been arrested since the law was implemented.