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June 23, 2017

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HK police jailed for attack on protester

HONG KONG -- Seven Hong Kong police officers were jailed for two years Friday for what the judge described as a "vicious" attack on a protester during pro-democracy rallies in 2014, captured on film and beamed around the world.

All seven were convicted earlier this week of assault causing actual bodily harm to Civic Party activist Ken Tsang, but were acquitted of a more serious charge of grievous bodily harm with intent.

Video footage of the attack, filmed by a local network near the city's government headquarters, shocked residents and dented their faith in the usually trusted police force.

It showed a group of men hauling a handcuffed Tsang to a dark corner in a public park, where he was beaten.

One man stood over him inflicting blows while others were seen repeatedly kicking him.

It was "a vicious assault," said judge David Dufton as he handed down sentencing at the city's district court, adding that police officers who break the law "have to be made an example of."

The maximum sentence for the lesser assault charges was three years.

"The multiplicity of the injuries and the damage to Hong Kong's reputation ... make this a very serious case," said Dufton, noting the incident had made international headlines.

Police have been criticized for their sometimes heavy-handed treatment of protesters during the 79 days of rallies and street blockades, known as the Umbrella Movement, that brought parts of the city to a standstill.

The demonstrators were seeking fully free elections for semi-autonomous Hong Kong's future leaders.

The rallies were sparked after Beijing said the public could choose the next chief executive, but only after candidates had been vetted.

There are increasing concerns in Hong Kong that Chinese authorities are tightening their grip on the city.

Social worker Tsang, who was not in court Friday, said the sentencing proved that ordinary people can "fight back" against police violence.

"I hope the government and the police will do something, think about what they have done, and say sorry to Hong Kong citizens," he told AFP.

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