HONG KONG (Reuters) - A court in Hong Kong on Thursday sentenced a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker, Ted Hui, to 3 1/2 years in jail for "criminal contempt" after he failed to show up for trial in several criminal cases.
Hui, 40, fled Hong Kong in December 2020, several months after China imposed a sweeping national security law punishing offences like subversion and foreign collusion with possible life imprisonment.
In a judgment posted online, Judge Andrew Chan outlined how Hui had deceived the court with false documents in late 2020 to have travel restrictions lifted and to "evade criminal proceedings".
Hui went overseas after he was allowed to travel and did not return, eventually settling in Australia.
Hui had been facing criminal charges in several cases at the time, including perverting the course of justice, access to a computer with dishonest intent, and alleged criminal damage.
"The deception was carefully orchestrated by the respondent (Hui) with the consequences that public confidence in the administration of justice had been greatly undermined," wrote Chan, who had found Hui guilty on four counts of contempt of court in June.
Hui was among dozens of democrats who took part in an unofficial primary election in August 2020, that was later deemed illegal by authorities. Forty seven of these democrats were arrested in early 2021 for alleged conspiracy to commit subversion that could see them jailed for life.
Legal proceedings are ongoing, with many of the democrats detained and denied bail ahead of the trial.
In a social media post on Thursday, Hui described the sentence and criminal proceedings against him as "contemptible".
"After the National Security Law came into effect in Hong Kong, the courts in Hong Kong have been reduced to become courts of the (Chinese) Communist Party. Political trials, and sentencing against dissent has become the norm in Hong Kong," Hui wrote.
More than 200 people have been arrested for alleged violations of the national security law since 2020.
Hong Kong and Chinese authorities say the national security law has restored stability to Hong Kong after mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, and that the judiciary remains independent.
(Reporting by James Pomfret and Jessie Pang; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)