Some of the 47 pro-democracy activists including Lam Cheuk-ting, center, are escorted by Correctional Services officers to a prison van in Hong Kong, March 4, 2021.
Some of the 47 pro-democracy activists including Lam Cheuk-ting, center, are escorted by Correctional Services officers to a prison van in Hong Kong, March 4, 2021.

A Hong Kong judge ordered 47 pro-democracy activists to remain in custody Thursday after the territory’s Department of Justice appealed an earlier decision to release some of them on bail.

Chief Magistrate Victor So granted bail to only 15 of the activists, but they remained in custody after government prosecutors said they would appeal So’s decision.

The order came after four days of bail hearings for activists facing charges under a stringent national security law imposed by China, sparking global concern that Beijing is using the law to suppress dissent.

Adoption of the security law in June 2020 led to a harsh crackdown on free speech and opposition political activity in Hong Kong. Serious offenders of the law could face life imprisonment.

The activists were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, a criminal offense under the law.

They were arrested on Sunday over their participation in an unofficial primary election in 2020 that authorities said was part of a “vicious plot” to “overthrow” the Hong Kong government.

The election was supposed to produce the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council. The government postponed the election, citing the coronavirus pandemic.