Hong Kong activist jailed for national security offences

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption “I have nothing to hide from the government,” said the young activist

A Hong Kong activist has been jailed for two years for disobedience, in the territory’s first national security court case in nearly 30 years.

Former blogger and student activist Lester Shum was convicted of criminal contempt of court by the prosecution, because he had brought to court a petition in support of late democracy leader Joshua Wong.

Mr Shum, 20, denied the charge and has vowed to appeal.

The judge says those in Hong Kong must obey the law.

Mr Shum was arrested in June in the wake of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. He was taken to the Wong campaign’s trial, which had already finished.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption He is the first person arrested under the national security law in 30 years

“It is always a difficult judgment to reach. They [the government] have a firm position that anyone is either with them or against them,” a volunteer who attended the case said.

Mr Shum’s lawyers have said that the case was politically motivated and based on faulty evidence.

The Hong Kong government has said that Mr Shum used the national security law to incite unrest in the city.

Torture allegations

Mr Shum has spent years in activism, despite being arrested, detained and charged with various offences, including handing out illegal stickers.

He was arrested again in 2015 and accused of spreading pornography.

While taking his oath of office as a student lawmaker, Mr Shum was barred from taking the oath by a member of the Legislative Council’s Legislative Affairs Committee.

Two years later, he was arrested again, accused of sedition for discussing establishing an unofficial “local” government at an event.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Jailed activist Lester Shum is known for his calls for democracy in Hong Kong

China says the national security law is meant to safeguard national security. Human rights organisations have called it an unnecessary legal tool used by authorities to crush civil liberties.

The 20-year-old was denied bail in what his lawyers said was a move to prevent him from organising and participating in protests.

Although British rule ended in 1997, Hong Kong is technically governed under the “one country, two systems” principle.

It is allowed to retain civil liberties, including freedom of speech and assembly, but many feel under threat from Beijing’s growing influence.

Recent protests in Hong Kong against China’s controversial leader, Xi Jinping, have attracted tens of thousands of people.

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