SEVEN Hong Kong police officers have been found guilty of a lesser charge in the assault of a pro-democracy activist whose videotaped beating during the height of 2014 pro-democracy protests sparked outrage.
A district court judge found the seven officers guilty of one joint count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on Tuesday.
They had originally been charged with grievous bodily harm. One of the officers was also found guilty of common assault.
The policemen face a maximum three years in prison and have been remanded.
The activist, Ken Tsang, was part of a group of protesters involved in a pre-dawn clash with police outside government headquarters over Beijing’s plans to restrict elections for the semi-autonomous city.
During the scuffle, TV news cameras caught officers kicking and punching a handcuffed Tsang in a dark corner of a nearby park.
The defence had argued that the person seen beaten in the video was not Tsang but another protestor who was also arrested the same night.
Judge David Dufton maintained that Tsang was the person seen assaulted in the video and that the officers were also seen in the footage throughout the altercation in Tamar Park.
The judge added, two senior police officers, who were present during the incident, did not take part in the assault but watched what happened.
“Every police officer has a duty to intervene to prevent the commission of a crime, even by fellow police officers,” Judge Dufton said, as quoted by the Hong Kong Free Press.
However, the judge said Tsang’s injuries from the incident did not amount to grievous bodily harm but did find the officers guilty of the lesser charge of assault.
Last year, the 40-year-old Tsang was jailed five weeks after being found guilty of splashing a foul-smelling liquid on police officers. The liquid was said to have the odor of urine.
Counsel Edward Tang, who represented one of the policemen, claimed Tsang’s injuries may have been caused by his own resistance to arrest.
Another defence lawyer, Edward Chow, argued that Tsang was an “opportunistic” and “unreliable” witness, comparing the activists’ actions to his move to resign from the Civic party after it decided not to field him as a candidate for the Legislative Council election last year.
Chow also charged that Tsang had used the assault case to gain political mileage, a claim that Tsang has denied.
The sentence for the officers will be announced on a later date.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press