Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Seven Hong Kong police officers accused of beating a man during protests in 2014 are each headed to jail for a crime the judge called a "vicious assault" with "no justification."
Television cameras caught the seven officers assaulting social worker and activist Ken Tsang during pro-democracy rallies in 2014 in Hong Kong, allegedly taking him to a park away from the protest and beating him while he was handcuffed, for which each of the officers was sentenced to two years in jail on Thursday.
At least one lawmaker in Hong Kong's Legislative Council said he fears future dust-ups between police and citizens as the debate over democracy, as well as the push for full independence from China, continues to ratchet up.
"[I] waited for a long period of two years, and the home of the civil society is a little win against police violence, but I hope everyone does not forget," Tsang said Thursday in a post on his Facebook page. "The purpose of the umbrella movement has continued to strive for universal suffrage."
Hong Kong was returned to China by the British in 1997 and has operated under a "one country, two systems" policy that allows Hong Kong to self-govern, for the most part, though China occasionally gets involved in the city-state's internal affairs.
In the midst of 79 days of protest in 2104, Tsang had two interactions with police on the night of October 14.
Tsang was found guilty of assaulting officers and resisting arrest during the protests, and sentenced to five months in jail for the action. The second interaction was when he was cuffed, taken to a park and beaten by the seven officers, for which they were all sentenced on Thursday.
Legislators were torn on the verdicts, with one legislator saying the sentences were "too heavy" and another questioning why the officers received longer sentences than Tsang.
A pro-democracy legislator, Lam Cheuk-ting, said, however, he felt the sentences were appropriate and could help the police to act with more restraint at future protests, which he thinks are likely.
"It is the nightmare of all law enforcement personnel to break the law themselves while arresting those who break the law," Lam said, which suggesting the two-year sentences could serve as a warning to other officers not to exercise self-control.
Judge David Dufton said that while the officers were under "immense stress," they're beating of Tsang was unjustified and "brought damage to Hong Kong in the international community," especially its police force, which is not widely known for such altercations.