After two years, seven Hong Kong Police officers at the center of a police brutality case have been convicted for the beating of a hogtied protester in the darkness of night during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
The Umbella (or Occupy) Movement was a grassroots protest led by students that lasted 79 days, drawing in over 100,000 protesters and bringing Hong Kong’s roads and business centers to a standstill. The occupation was a nonviolent, politically charged occupation of Hong Kong’s main central business districts (CBDs) in protest of a political reform package introduced by Beijing and embraced by incumbent Chief Executive CY Leung.
The court originally sentenced each officer to a jail term of two years and six months after their joint conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. This was reduced by six months after District Court Judge David Dufton considered the circumstances at the time and the great stress that police were under in handling the Umbrella Movement, while also taking into account the officers’ clear records up to that date, as well as their dismissal from the force and likelihood of losing their pensions. The seven convicted policemen are Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing, 50; Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 31; Detective Sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 43; Constable Lau Hing-pui, 39; and Detective Constables Wong Wai-ho, 38, Chan Siu-tan, 33, and Kwan Ka-ho, 33.
On October 15, 2014, the night of the incident, political activist and social worker Ken Tsang Kin-chiu was tied up and carried away in full public view from a group of demonstrators. Stepping away from the crowd, the police officers took Tsang to a dark corner outside a substation in Admiralty near the Hong Kong Legislative Council, where they assumed they were out of public sight. The officers then laid Tsang face-down, and took turns punching and kicking him, with at least one them assigned to keep watch for any witnesses. Unbeknownst to the policemen, a local television network had their cameras trained on them from afar for the duration of the beating.
While the police had charged Tsang with assault — spraying liquid from a bottle onto the officers –Dufton said in his sentence that there was no justification for the vicious assault on a defenseless man.
“The defendants have not only brought dishonor to the Hong Kong Police Force, they have also damaged Hong Kong’s reputation in the international community, the assault having been widely viewed around the world and reported as front-page news in a number of countries,” he said.
Tsang hailed their punishment as “a minor victory for civil society against police violence.”
Three of the officers –Wong Cho-shing, Lau Hing-pui, and Kwan Ka-ho — have lodged appeals.