Seven members of the group Returning Valiant — including four minors — have been charged under the national security law with conspiring to incite subversion, with bail denied.
An additional member of the group was arrested on Tuesday, after 14 others were arrested over alleged possession of explosives and materials with pro-independence slogans in May and in July.
Among the defendants charged on Wednesday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court was a 15-year-old girl. Four other defendants were secondary school students, including three who are 16 and one who was 18.
Prosecutors charged the defendants under articles 22 and 23 of the national security law for inciting others to overthrow or to undermine the Hong Kong and the Chinese governments with or without the use or the threat of force, as well as sections 159A and 159C of the Crimes Ordinance for the act of conspiracy.
Magistrate Peter Law denied bail applications from defendants – Yuen Ka-him, 16, Choi Wing-kit, 20, Leung Yung-wan, 16, Chan Yau-tsun, 25, Tseung Chau Ching-yu, 16, as well as the 15 year old girl. Hong Kong laws prohibit revealing a defendant’s name if they are under 16 years of age.
Defendant Kwok Man-hei, 18, did not apply for bail.
The first defendant, Yuen, appeared in the defendants’ dock in a school uniform — clothes he was wearing when he was taken into custody — while two others wore t-shirts printed with cartoon characters.
Over 100 people filled the public gallery during the hearing. Before proceedings began, the magistrate asked whether any parent of the 15-year-old defendant was present in the public gallery. A woman who identified herself was arranged to sit on the front row with a better view of the dock. She broke down in tears following the magistrate’s decision and was led away by friends and relatives as they left the courthouse.
“We will be here whatever happens,” one person shouted at the defendants from the gallery, others shouted: “stay strong!”
Six of the defendants have been on remand or on police bail following the earlier arrests, except Leung, who was arrested on Tuesday.
Police first arrested five members of the group in May, on suspicion of the burglary of a secondary school in Tseung Kwan O and for being in possession of signs calling for Hong Kong independence.
In July, national security police arrested nine suspects from the same group on suspicion of planning “terrorist acts”. Police raided a hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui, where they found a small quantity of explosives and raw materials for making triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly unstable explosive prone to unintended detonation.
The press is barred from reporting details about the case and the defendants’ background mentioned during bail proceedings, as such reporting is subject to restrictions set out in section 9P of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.
Correction 17:52: Owing to an editing error, a previous sub-headline in this article incorrectly stated which defendant was wearing a school uniform.