Hong Kong democrats, district councillors and activists took to Facebook over the weekend to share final messages of hope and encouragement before 47 of them were charged on Sunday under the national security law. All but one appeared in court on Monday to face charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion” after participating in a primary legislative election held last July. District Councillor Chui Chi-kin did not attend as he remains in hospital.

In total, 55 primary election candidates and organisers – arrested and released on bail in early January – were told on Friday to report to a police station on Sunday, earlier than scheduled.

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Ventus Lau, before entering a police station on Sunday. Photo: Ventus Lau via Facebook.

Only eight in the group were granted bail and not formally charged. The rest are expected to be denied bail under the Beijing-imposed national security law. The maximum sentence is life behind bars.

‘Don’t give up Hong Kong’

“Ideas are bulletproof,” Tuen Mun District Councillor Sam Cheung – one of the 47 charged – wrote in a handwritten note posted to Facebook. “Our future is never determined. It’s the people who can walk through the fog, that can actualise the future. Our will and our faith will be our guiding light through everything.”

Several of the arrested activists wrote notes from the police stations where they were detained. The notes were passed on to friends or assistants, who posted them on Facebook. Others shared messages on social media before reporting to the police.

“Dear Hongkongers,” wrote localist activist Owen Chow in a note. “I will continue to walk with you, strengthen myself, become a better person, and fight with you again beyond the wall. Don’t worry, and don’t give up Hong Kong.”

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Photo: Owen Chow via Facebook.

“When suffering seems endless, what we need isn’t to imagine what such suffering will be, but to have hope and determination to surpass it,” Chow wrote in an earlier message on Sunday. “Suffering helps us grow, hope strengthens us. In the long age of darkness, wherever we have gone in exile, whether it is on the street, in jail, underground, or overseas, we will need endless hope to sustain our fight together.”

Stand News reporters shadowed nine activists as they made final arrangements before visiting the police station. Chow, a Buddhist, visited a tattoo parlour to have Tibetan scripture etched on his forearm over the weekend.

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Ventus Lau, also a localist activist, visited an optometrist to replace his glasses with ones made of plastic, since metal frames are not allowed in prison.

“When [pro-independence activist] Edward [Leung] was asked if he would leave Hong Kong, he said he would stay, because he wanted to prove that there are Hongkongers willing to sacrifice themselves completely for their political beliefs,” Lau wrote. “Five years later, we no longer need to prove that many, many of us, are willing to give up everything in life for our ideals, for this city. Please take care, everyone.”

Tsuen Wan District Councillor and activist Lester Shum, who got married shortly after his arrest in January, wrote: “[We] needn’t carry worry nor lose our will. We have chosen this path, Hong Kong has chosen this path. Once chosen, we must keep walking. History has no way back, only predecessors.”

Tat Cheng, a district councillor in the Eastern District, wrote: “Breathe with all your strength. Live well, and don’t lose hope for life.”

22-year old student activist Wong Ji-yuet recalled her hope to hike across Hong Kong after graduating from university in a few months’ time. “One stands upright in the mountains, the heart is at peace even when the terrain is rugged,” she wrote.

“Thank you for your care. If I am detained, I hope that, when I would be released, you all will still be here, persisting,” Wong wrote.

Ex-lawmaker Eddie Chu also thanked his supporters: “Thank you to the people of Hong Kong for giving me the opportunity to contribute to society over the past 15 years. I feel deeply honoured to be guilty of upholding our common ideals.”

“I’ve received all of your greetings and I wish everyone will live fully everyday, under whatever circumstances, to make those around you feel love and hope.”

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.