Seven Hong Kong police officers have been sentenced to two years in jail for the beating of pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang during an Occupy protest in 2014.
On Tuesday, the seven officers were all found not guilty of one joint count of “causing grievous bodily harm with intent,” but were instead convicted of a lesser charge of “assault occasioning actual bodily harm.” Meanwhile, one officer, Chan Siu-tan, was also convicted of an additional count of common assault.
In Hong Kong, “assault occasioning actual bodily harm” carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, while common assault is punishable with one year in jail.
While the judge originally imposed a sentence of two years and six months, he reduced the sentence due to the officers’ “clear record, service to the community, stress from the long trial and during the Occupy Movement as well as their dismissal from the force and loss of pension,” according to South China Morning Post.
The seven policemen had spent HK$9 million on their defense in the high-profile case. Once the sentencing was announced, their supporters gathered outside the courthouse immediately shouted for them to “appeal.”
In October 2014, the officers were captured on camera kicking, punching and stepping on Tsang while his hands were bound in a video that quickly resulted in them being removed from their posts.
Tsang had testified in court that after he had splashed liquid from a bottle on a group of officers trying to clear a pro-democracy protest in Admiralty, he was arrested, had his hands bound behind his back, and was carried to a police substation where he was thrown to the ground and beaten.
However, the court did not believe that the injuries Tsang sustained to his face, neck, shoulders and back during the assault were enough to constitute “grievous bodily harm.”
Tsang also singled out Chan as being the officer who had slapped him twice in the face.
While two of the seven officers had not participated in the assault, they had watched as it happened and not tried to stop it, behavior that the court said amounted to encouraging and supporting the crime.
After the sentencing, Tsang urged the police to apologize to Hongkongers and use the decision as an opportunity to reflect upon and review its own monitoring system, conduct and culture. He added that his case was just one of many that deserve attention, SCMP reports.
“It has been two years since the incident took place. This comes as a minor victory for civil society against police violence,” he said.
Meanwhile, HKFP reports that pro-Beijing and pro-police figures are planning to organize a rally on Saturday afternoon in central in support of the seven officers and to “express dissatisfaction at the judicial sector.”
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