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47 Hong Kong democracy activists to be kept in custody, says court

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hong kong protesters

On Thursday, a Hong Kong court ordered 47 pro-democracy activists charged under a Beijing-imposed national security law with “conspiracy to commit subversion” to be kept in custody in a case that has sparked global outcry at Beijing using such laws to quash dissent from Hong Kongers, according to multiple news outlets.

The Thursday ruling came after four days of bail hearings and after the Hong Kong Department of Justice appealed an initial decision to grant 15 of them bail.

31 of the activists were denied bail completely, with the co-founder of the 2014 Occupy Central protest movement, Benny Tai, withdrawing his bail application after he was ordered to be held in custody in a different case, according to the Associated Press.

The case’s next hearing is scheduled for May 31, per the news outlet.

The hearings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing several defendants to fall ill and be taken to the hospital, according to Reuters via U.S. & World News Report. This has prompted concerns from rights groups and some foreign diplomats over their treatment.

On Sunday, the activists were detained and charged over their involvement in an unofficial primary election last year that authorities said was a plot to paralyze Hong Kong’s government, according to the AP.

The charges are the most sweeping use yet of the national security law that mainland China imposed on the semi-autonomous city last June, which prompted global outcry.

MORE ON HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents fleeing by the thousands for Britain after Chinese visa crackdown

With the 47 remanded in custody, as the AP noted, almost all of Hong Kong’s most high-profile pro-democracy activists will now be in jail or in self-exile abroad amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The 15 activists initially granted bail are set to appear at the High Court within 48 hours for a review of the decision, according to Reuters.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to this reporter’s request for comment.

MORE ON HONG KONG: Sec. Pompeo condemns arrest of three Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, calls for their release

Chairman Avery Ng of the League of Social Democrats political party, according to the AP, said after the hearing that the Department of Justice’s appeal of the decision to grant bail to 15 of the defendants was “insidious” and “absurd, ridiculous and inhumane.”

“We’re not surprised at all that today’s bail application failed,” said Po-ying Chan, wife of one of the prominent defendants who was denied bail, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, according to Reuters.

“This proved that under the [national security law], the legal system has been twisted and turned upside down.”

MORE ON HONG KONG: NYT Opinion Piece Defends China’s Authoritarian Actions in Hong Kong

Ahead of the bail decisions, more than a hundred supporters of the activists congregated outside the West Kowloon Court in an emotional scene, chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which the government has outlawed because of secessionist connotations.

Some sobbed inside the chambers and others hugged outside, according to Reuters. One person, the outlet reported, stood outside the court with a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the democracy movement, and a banner that said “Free all political prisoners”.

Police assembled and hoisted a warning flag, according to the AP, instructing demonstrators that they might be violating the national security law.

The activists are accused of organizing and engaging in an unofficial, non-binding primary election last July that authorities claimed was part of a “vicious plot” to “overthrow” the government.

The vote, according to Reuters, was aimed at picking the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the coronavirus.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Taiwan President Confirms US Troops Are In The Country To Help Protect Against China

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China Military

During a CNN interview on Wednesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed that U.S. troops were on the ground in Taiwan to assist in strengthening the country’s defenses as the threat from China is “increasing every day.”

Tsai told CNN’s Will Ripley that the situation has gone south in recent years as “China’s plan towards the region” has become “very different.”

“That plan includes war threats over Taiwan, clashes with Japan and the East China Sea and militarizing manmade islands in the South China Sea, posing a direct challenge to seven decades of U.S. military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific,” Ripley said. “In response, the U.S. ramped up arms sales to Taiwan, selling the island $5 billion in weapons last year. President Tsai confirms exclusively to CNN, U.S. support goes beyond selling weapons. Does that support include sending some U.S. service members to help train Taiwanese troops?”

“Well, yes,” Tsai responded. “We have a wide range of cooperation with the U.S., aiming at increasing our defense capability.”

Later in the interview, Ripley asked, “Do you have faith that the United States would defend Taiwan if the Mainland were to try to move on Taiwan?”

“I do have faith, and given the long-term relationship that we have the U.S. and also the support the people of the U.S., as well as the Congress, and the administration has been very helpful,” Tsai said, later adding that Taiwan needs to “expedite our military reform so that we have the ability to defend ourselves. And given the size of Taiwan compared to the size of [China], developing asymmetric capability is the key for us.”

Tsai’s comments come a few weeks after China sent over 150 military planes into Taiwanese air space, the largest incursion ever by the Communist country.

“The defense of Taiwan is in our own hands, and we are absolutely committed to that,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told ABC Australia in response to China’s aggression.

“If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan we will fight to the end, and that is our commitment. I’m sure that if China is going to launch an attack against Taiwan, I think they are going to suffer tremendously as well.”

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