China

Hong Kong police hold rally to support officers jailed for assault

Picture of police demonstration on 22 February 2017 in Hong Kong. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The crowd on Wednesday night was made up of currently serving officers as well as former officers

Thousands of Hong Kong police officers have staged a rally in support of seven policemen jailed for assault.

The men were sentenced to two years in jail last week for beating a handcuffed protester during the 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations.

The sentence angered many officers, who believe it was unjust and too harsh.

About 33,000 people attended Wednesday night's gathering at a police recreation ground, according to police associations which organised the event.

Organisers said they would help the jailed officers appeal against their convictions and clear their names, reported RTHK.

Many were heard yelling "Fight for justice" at the two-hour rally, one of the largest of its kind and a rare sign of police dissent.

Shocking incident

The seven officers were sentenced to jail last week for assaulting social worker and activist Ken Tsang in 2014.

TV cameras had caught the officers removing Mr Tsang from the protest area to a nearby park and kicking and punching him as he lay on the ground.

It came at the height of the massive street protests calling for greater political freedom, which shut down central areas of the territory for weeks.

The incident shocked Hong Kong, where police are generally well regarded.

Mr Tsang was himself found guilty of assaulting and resisting officers on the same evening.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The judge said the incident had damaged the image of Hong Kong

In sentencing the policemen, Judge David Dufton noted they had been working under "immense stress" but that there was "no justification" for their actions.

The officers' defence lawyer, as well as some in the police force, have argued that policemen at the time had to endure physical and verbal abuse from protesters.

One participant at Wednesday's rally told the South China Morning Post that the event was "a deep and heartfelt expression of genuine support for our colleagues and their families, who we feel have been unfairly treated and whose actions came out of a time of highly charged political emotion and stress".

Chan Cho Kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong Junior Police Officers Association, told Reuters: "Many people think that the police are professional and should tolerate these deliberate insults. But we have different views, we think that some deliberate insult should not be tolerated, which undermines law and order."

Several police associations plan to lobby the city's government to ban insulting acts against public officers on duty, reported the Post.

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