Seven policemen convicted of assaulting Occupy activist Ken Tsang
Incident took place during pro-democracy civil disobedience movement in 2014
Seven policemen will be sentenced on Friday after being convicted of kicking and punching activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu following his arrest for assaulting officers during an Occupy protest more than two years ago.
All seven beat the original, more serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but were found guilty on one joint count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The lesser charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail, compared with life imprisonment for the original.
All the defendants, who walked into the District Court in identical suits and ties on the morning of Valentine’s Day, left in the afternoon in prison vans, remanded until sentencing on Friday.
District Judge David Dufton’s verdict concluded one of the most controversial cases arising from the pro-democracy civil disobedience movement in 2014, when thousands took over major thoroughfares for up to 79 days to protest against Beijing’s announcement of a restrictive political reform framework.
There was a burst of applause from the policemen’s supporters when the packed courtroom first heard the judge clear them of the original charge. But that was replaced by silence as Dufton went on to announce the alternative verdict, convicting them on the lesser charge which was not on the original indictment.
The District Court previously heard Tsang, 41, testify that he was arrested and zip-tied after pouring liquid onto officers during a clearance operation in Admiralty on October 15.
But instead of being put in a police van, he was frogmarched by a group of officers to a nearby substation where he was dumped on the ground and immediately assaulted for four minutes – leaving him with injuries to his face, neck, shoulder, flank, chest and back. Some 15 reddish marks on his body could have been caused by police batons, the court found.
Part of what happened that night was captured on camera by multiple news outlets.
The seven officers were subsequently identified as 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.
While noting the two more senior officers – Chief Inspector Wong and Senior Inspector Lau – were not seen assaulting Tsang, Dufton ruled in a 224-page judgement that all seven had carried Tsang to the substation with the sole intent to assault him.
“Every police officer has a duty to intervene to prevent the commission of a crime, even by fellow police officers,” Dufton wrote. “A police officer’s duty is to keep the peace. If a police officer stands by and watches his colleague beat up a suspected person, his failure to intervene is evidence of encouragement to carry out the assault.”
But the judge was not satisfied that these injuries amounted to grievous bodily harm.
Separately, Chan was also convicted of common assault – punishable by one year behind bars – for twice slapping Tsang at the Central Police Station when he was said to have refused to unlock his phone.
Defence counsels are now seeking suspended jail terms, after arguing in mitigation that the assault arose from extraordinary circumstances of the protest which left these “conscientious” and “upright” officers under immeasurable pressure.
Tsang was jailed for five weeks last May by another court over charges of assaulting and resisting police. He was immediately released on bail, pending appeal.