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Seven Hong Kong policemen filmed taking turns to repeatedly kick and punch pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the Occupy movement in 2014 were each jailed for two years, local government-owned broadcaster RTHK reported.

The trial centred on an incident on October 15, 2014, at the height of the 79-day protests that paralysed parts of Hong Kong and posed one of the most serious political challenges to Communist Party leaders in Beijing for decades.

Tsang was accused of accepting refurbishment and decoration work on a three-storey penthouse in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that he had rented from the Shenzhen East Pacific Group, owned by Wong, but the jury failed to reach a majority decision on this charge after deliberating for almost two days.

Commenting after the sentencing, Tsang, feeling relieved, said the police force should offer Hong Kong citizens an apology for their mistake.

The demonstrations posed a serious political challenge to the Communist Party leadership in Beijing.

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There are increasing concerns in Hong Kong that Chinese authorities are tightening their grip on the city. The Occupy protests, during which police fired tear gas, was the sternest test of the force in decades. Although Tsang broke the law ... and the police officers worked under enormous stress ... there was no justification to assault Tsang. Sentencing will take place later but the court announced no date.

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. "This comes as a minor victory for civil society against police violence", he said.

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.

"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.