Hong Kong police have jailed 47 pro-democracy activists on charges of “subversion,” the largest use so far of the controversial security law that since 2020 has been forcibly taking away freedoms and imposing the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

During the month of January 53 activists were detained simply for defending democracy and confronting the repressive ideals of the CCP in Hong Kong. Nearly 1,000 police officers participated in early morning raids at 72 locations in the city during the first days of January.

Those detained at the time were accused of attempting to “overthrow” the government, while activists argued that the new law is aimed at stifling dissent.

The 53 activists were quickly released in January, but 47 of them were jailed again overnight on Sunday, Feb. 28, before appearing in court on Monday. 

The former lawmakers and activists will now remain in detention and are due to appear in court on Monday, authorities said.

Technically the 47 jailed are charged with breaching the new national security law imposed by the CCP. The subversion charge relates to participation in an unofficial primary vote held in Hong Kong in July last year, ahead of the Legislative Council elections in September 2020. The defendants are 39 men and eight women, aged between 23 and 64. The charges can carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.

More than 600,000 Hong Kong residents cast their votes in the primary ballot, which was held on July 11 and 12, 2020.

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union member countries, and Taiwan have expressed concern over the subversion charges and the imprisonment of the 47 pro-democracy activists by the communist regime in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab used Twitter to say the decision to charge the 47 activists was “deeply disturbing.”

“It shows in the starkest terms that the NSL (national security law) being used to eliminate political dissent rather than restore order—contrary to what the Chinese Government promised,” Raab wrote.

In a statement on Facebook, the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macau said the charge was “very concerning.”

“The nature of these charges makes it clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong,” it wrote. “The EU calls for the immediate release of those arrested.”

On Sunday, the pro-democracy organization Civil Human Rights Front issued a statement on Facebook urging Hong Kong residents to line up for the next day’s court hearing to support the 47 activists. 

As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, nearly 1,000 locals had turned up outside the courthouse showing their support, many lining up for the court hearing. Many chanted “Free all political prisoners” and called for “the five demands,” including universal suffrage, that Hong Kong protesters have been demanding since they took to the streets in mass protests in June 2019.