Hong Kong jails seven police officers over activist beating

Footage of officers kicking and punching activist was widely viewed and condemned

Three of the police officers  charged in connection with the beating of a protester arrive at  court in Hong Kong. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Three of the police officers charged in connection with the beating of a protester arrive at court in Hong Kong. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

 

A Hong Kong court has jailed seven police officers for two years each for beating a handcuffed protester at the height of the Occupy pro-democracy protests in the territory in 2014.

Footage of the officers taking social worker and activist Ken Tsang away in restraints to a nearby park in October 2014 and kicking and punching him as he lay on the ground, ran on public television and was widely condemned.

District court judge David Dufton sentenced all seven to two years imprisonment, saying they had “damaged” the reputation of the Hong Kong police force. He said the assault had been widely viewed around the world, and that there was no justification for the attack.

The incident happened at the height of the Occupy protests, during which Hong Kong witnessed 79 days of student-led demonstrations and street occupations by angry citizens seeking more democracy and a greater say in how the territory is run.

The demonstrations posed a serious political challenge to the Communist Party leadership in Beijing.

Stern test of force

The beating sparked anger and concern in Hong Kong, where the police are highly respected and incidents of police brutality are comparatively rare. The Occupy protests, during which police fired tear gas, was the sternest test of the force in decades.

Mr Tsang, a member of the pro-democracy Civic Party, was found guilty last year of pouring an unknown liquid, widely believed to be urine, on police officers and of resisting arrest. He was handed a five-week sentence.

After the sentencing Mr Tsang said he was “relieved” and that the police force should offer an apology.

“It has been two years since the incident took place. This comes as a minor victory for civil society against police violence,” he said, quoted in the South China Morning Post newspaper.

‘One country, two systems’

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 but enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems”, which allows limited democracy and strong legal protections.

There are growing concerns about Beijing interfering in Hong Kong, especially in the wake of a series of apparent abductions of dissidents and suspects from the territory back across the border.

The seven officers had denied one joint count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but were convicted of a lesser count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm at the District Court on Tuesday. One of the officers was also found guilty of slapping Mr Tsang twice in an interview room at the Central Police Station.

The Junior Police Officers’ Association, which represents over 20,000 officers, said it was “extremely shocked” by the verdict and would help its members to appeal.