Five police officers jailed for assaulting activist Ken Tsang in 2014 have been denied permission to appeal their convictions.

The Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that the men could not take their case to Hong Kong’s top court because it did not present any “points of law of great and general importance.” Despite the rejection, the police officers will try to seek permission to appeal from the Court of Final Appeal directly, their lawyer told RTHK.

Defendants of the Ken Tsang assault case
Defendants of the Ken Tsang assault case. File photo: Stand News.

On October 15, 2014, at the height of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, social worker Ken Tsang was beaten up by seven police officers in a dimly-lit street corner outside the government’s headquarters. The officers said Tsang had provoked them by pouring water on colleagues clearing a nearby protest site.

The officers were convicted and jailed in February 2017, though all of them lodged appeals and were released on bail having served only six months or less respectively.

In July, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of two of the officers, and reduced the sentences of the remaining five. The judges responsible said they did so because the original prison sentences were “manifestly excessive.”

No ‘point of law’

In the appeal application, defence lawyers raised the question of how video evidence can be used in legal settings. Tsang’s assault was caught on tape by news crews such as TVB, but the original footage was never played in court.

ken tsang seven police beating
The beating of Ken Tsang by seven police officers was caught on television cameras. Photo: TVB screenshot.

However, the three appeal judges – Jeremy Poon, Ian McWalters and Andre Macrae – said that the issue was “well-settled” and need not be discussed at the Court of Final Appeal.

“At no stage of the trial proceedings did any of the defendants’ counsel… ever mount any application for the originals to be produced at trial… nor was an application for a stay of proceedings mounted on the basis that a fair trial was impossible without the original tape recordings,” the judges wrote in their 7-page judgment.

“That was because there was a deliberate tactical decision by trial counsel to take advantage of the absence of the originals.”

Ken Tsang social worker
Ken Tsang. File photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The defendants were trying to make a “factual complaint” about how the trial judge evaluated the evidence, which was not a permissible ground for the application, the judges added.

In Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal will only hear criminal cases if they involve “a point of law of great and general importance,” or  “substantial and grave injustice” has been done.

The five defendants were police chief inspector Wong Cho-shing, 51, senior inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 32, detective sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 45, and constables Chan Siu-tan, 34 and Kwan Ka-ho, 35.

They will continue to serve the remainder of their sentences, which range from 15 to 18 months.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.