Policemen jailed for assault on anti-government activist in Hong Kong

Feb 17, 2017
Anti-government activist Ken Tsang Kin-Chiu being taken away by the police during a mass protest in Hong Kong in October 15, 2014 ... photo CNN.
Anti-government activist Ken Tsang Kin-Chiu being taken away by the police during a mass protest in Hong Kong in October 15, 2014 … photo CNN.

A Hong Kong court sentenced seven policemen to two years jail on Friday for beating a handcuffed a street activist during anti-government mass protests in 2014, a rare case of police brutality in the financial hub that triggered public outrage.

The trial centred on an incident on October 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 Kin-chiu, 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 guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, sentenced all seven officers to two years imprisonment.

Dufton said the officers had “damaged” the reputation of the Hong Kong police force because the assault had been widely viewed around the world, and that there was no justification for the attack.

Despite pleas for mitigation from the officers’ lawyers, Dufton said imprisonment was appropriate.

He acknowledged, however, that the “Hong Kong police were working under great pressure” to maintain order during the “Umbrella movement” protests that blocked major roads for almost three months.

Protester Ken Tsang Kin-chiu (bearded), accompanied by lawyers, leaves the court house in Hong Kong after a hearing on October 19, 2015 … photo Reuters.
Protester Ken Tsang Kin-chiu (bearded), accompanied by lawyers, leaves the court house in Hong Kong after a hearing on October 19, 2015 … photo Reuters.

Some of the policemen, dressed in dark suits and ties, were stern faced while others smiled to their family members in the gallery after sentencing.

Some in the gallery cried, while a few people cheered.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the officers would appeal against their sentences.

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.

Two senior officers among the seven convicted had not taken part in the assault directly, Dufton said earlier, but should have been duty-bound “to prevent the commission of a crime, even by fellow police officers”.

Instead, they had encouraged the others to carry out “unlawful personal violence” on Tsang.

The seven policemen arriving at the court house in Hong Kong on Friday Feb 17, 2017.
The seven policemen arriving at the court house in Hong Kong on Friday Feb 17, 2017.

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. – Reuters

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