A magistrate on Tuesday resumed hearing bail applications from 47 pro-democracy figures charged with subversion under the national security law, after the hearing which began on Monday had dragged on for close to 14 hours, leaving four defendants hospitalised due to exhaustion.

The initial hearing continued till almost 3am and resumed late on Tuesday morning at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, giving defendants little time to sleep. Government prosecutors want them held in custody for at least three months pending trial under the Beijing-imposed law, while defence lawyers are pressing for bail.

NSL 47
People holding up a “five-one” hand sign outside the court on Monday, representing the protest slogan “five demands, not one less,” which is outlawed under the National Security Law. Photo: Joshua Kwan/United Social Press.

The case represents the most significant move against Hong Kong’s opposition under the security law and has attracted strong international criticism, from the United States, Britain and other countries.

Hundreds of supporters gathered Monday in the street when the group was brought to court, prompting police warnings to the crowd. Leo Yau, one of the defence lawyers, was arrested outside the court on suspicion of obstructing a police officer and failing to produce proof of identity.

The defendants were arrested in a swoop by some 1,000 police in early January and were bailed pending charges, which were laid on Sunday against 47 of the 55 originally arrested.

Lo Kin-hei (left) and Figo Chan (second left)
Lo Kin-hei (left) and Figo Chan (second left) outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on Monday. Photo: Joshua Kwan/United Social Press.

Bail proceedings for the 47 former democratic legislators or activists — charged with subversion over participation in an opposition primary poll last July — began on Monday afternoon and was adjourned at 2:45am the next day.

Proceedings were adjourned at least twice during the day, to give the defendants time to meet their lawyers and the prosecution time to supply documents. The court began hearing bail applications at around 8pm, Stand News reported.

"release all political prisoners"
A man holding up a sign that reads “release all political prisoners” outside the court on Monday. Photo: Joshua Kwan/United Social Press.

The 39 men and eight women are charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” in connection with the unofficial primary to choose opposition candidates for the now-postponed 2020 Legislative Council election, which attracted some 600,000 voters.

Authorities say their aim of winning a majority in LegCo and blocking government budgets in order to force the chief executive to quit amounted to subversion.

"supporting comrades"
A person holding a sign that reads “supporting comrades” and the three-finger salute in solidarity with the protesters in Myanmar. Photo: Joshua Kwan/United Social Press.

All defendants appeared in court on Monday apart from District Councillor Chui Chi-kin, who remains in hospital.

The prosecution has applied to postpone the hearing until May 31 as its investigations continue.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

By 10:30pm on Monday, the court had only managed to hear the bail applications of seven defendants. District Councillor Clarisse Yeung appeared to collapse in the courtroom at around 1am and was rushed to hospital.

Defendants Mike Lam, Leung Kwok-Hung and Roy Tam were also sent to hospital afterwards due to exhaustion.

A post on Clarisse Yeung’s Facebook page on Tuesday morning said she had felt dizzy, heard a ringing noise and collapsed shortly afterwards.

The magistrate ordered the hearing to be adjourned after Yeung collapsed and even those defendants who were not hospitalised appeared exhausted.

They were taken to Lai Chi Kok Detention Centre, arriving between 3:30am and around 6:30am, Stand News reported. They returned to the courthouse shortly after 9am after going through proceedings at the detention centre, with almost no time for sleep in between.

Defence senior counsel Alan Leong questioned why police had “rushed” to press charges against the democrats on Sunday, some five weeks earlier than originally scheduled.

Leo Yau
Leo Yau . File Photo: Open University.

Leo Yau, one of the defence solicitors for nine of the defendants, was arrested in front of the courthouse Monday night, police said in response to HKFP‘s enquiry.

The 34-year-old attempted to pass a police cordon outside the court around 9:30pm, but appeared uncooperative after multiple warnings when police officers stopped him to make inquiries, police said in a statement.

Leo yau defence lawyer arrested at west kowloon magistrates courts
Defence lawyer Leo Yau was arrested in front of the West Kowloon Magistrates Courts on March 1.

Yau intended to enter the courthouse but was stopped by officers requesting proof of his identity as a lawyer, Apple Daily reported. Yau said police had no authority to block the courthouse nor to ask lawyers to show identification documents.

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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.