A Hong Kong court sentenced seven policemen to two years jail on Friday (February 17) for beating a handcuffed pro-democracy activist during mass democracy protests in 2014, a rare case of police brutality in the financial hub that triggered public outrage.
The trial centred on an incident on Oct. 15, 2014, at the height of the 79-day protests that paralysed parts of Hong Kong and posed one of the most serious political challenges to Communist Party leaders in Beijing for decades.
The policemen were filmed dragging the handcuffed protester, Ken Tsang, to a dark corner near the protest site, where he was kicked and punched repeatedly as he lay on the ground.
District court judge David Dufton, who had earlier found the men guilty of assault, sentenced all seven officers to at least two years imprisonment, saying the officers had “damaged” the reputation of the Hong Kong police force and that there was no justification for the attack.
Outside the court, supporters of the convicted policemen protested the decision and described the judge as “western dog”.
“It’s far beyond our imagination. It’s too harsh, it’s simply too harsh. We believe in justice, we believe in law. But it (the law) should be fair to everyone not just to one side,” said Justice Alliance Chairman Tang Tak Sing.
Pro-democracy supporters celebrated the verdict.
“If (police) can’t uphold the law, our social values will be destroyed. That will mean our future will be bleak. So I’m happy (they were sentenced to two years in prison),” said Grandma Wong, one of the protesters.
Tsang, a social worker, suffered face, neck and shoulder injuries. He was handcuffed with plastic zip ties at the time of the beating, although the court heard he had earlier thrown some liquid at police.
Heavy-handed policing is rare in Hong Kong and the case triggered public outrage and deepened tension during the protests in which clashes erupted occasionally.
Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that accords the city a degree of autonomy and freedom not enjoyed in mainland China.
China bristles at dissent, however, especially over issues such as demands for universal suffrage.
Many in Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about what they see as Beijing’s meddling in the city’s affairs. Unease about its future has stoked protests and has even led to calls for independence from China.