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Day three for Hong Kong activist hearing

Bail proceedings for 47 Hong Kong democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion have entered their third day, following marathon hearings late into the night with some defendants falling ill.

The charges are the most sweeping use yet of the national security law Beijing imposed on the global financial hub in June 2020.

Defence lawyers are challenging a prosecution bid to deny bail and keep the activists in custody for months while police investigate further.

In contrast with Hong Kong’s common law traditions, the new security law puts the onus on defendants to prove they will not pose a security threat if released on bail.

If remanded to custody, the move will mean most of Hong Kong’s opposition figures are either in jail or exile.

The activists are accused of organising and participating in an unofficial primary poll last July authorities claim was part of a plan to “overthrow” the government.

The poll was aimed at selecting the strongest candidates for a legislative council election the government later postponed, citing coronavirus.

The marathon hearings have so far seen five of defendants fall ill and need medical help.

Foreign diplomats and rights groups are closely monitoring the case amid mounting concerns over the independence of the former British colony’s vaunted judicial system that is seen as the foundation on which its financial prowess was built.

Supporters of the security law, which punishes what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, say it is necessary to restore stability in Hong Kong.

On Monday, about 1000 supporters defied social gathering rules to rally outside West Kowloon courthouse as the defendants faced charges following their arrest over the weekend.

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