A Hong Kong judge sentenced a secondary school student on Monday to nearly eight years in prison for stabbing a police officer in the neck during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Hui Tim-lik, then 19, jabbed a boxcutter into the neck of a police officer during a protest in October 2019 -- at the peak of a pro-democracy movement rallying against China's authoritarian hold on the territory.
Now 21, Hui -- who was immediately arrested and has been detained ever since -- had initially been accused of attempted murder.
But after he pleaded guilty last week, the serious charge was dropped, and high court judge Andrew Chan instead sentenced Hui on Monday to seven years and nine months in prison with intent to wound as an alternative charge.
Chan called the attack "one of the worst against police officers".
"The level of force was high. The intention was clear. The defendant aimed at the most vulnerable part of the victim," the judge said.
"Whatever one's political belief is, the use of violence must be condemned."
According to a medical report on the police officer's injuries, the box cutter missed a key artery by 1 centimetre, which if slashed could have been fatal.
The officer was hospitalised for a week and spent seven months in recovery. He resumed his duties on the force in June 2020.
Hui's lawyer told the court last week the student suffered from autism spectrum disorder, making it easy for him to lose control.
In an apology letter read out in court, Hui said he was affected by "stupidity and hatred" and now he has remorse.
"I hope no more hatred will be brewed and the society won't be torn apart," Hui told the court last week.
Massive, and at times violent, protests convulsed Hong Kong in 2019, triggered by a now-abandoned bill which would allow for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.
The protests later grew to represent a mounting resistance against China's authoritarian rule, prompting Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law in 2020 to stamp out dissent.
More than 10,000 people were arrested, many of them students.
By July 2021, more than 1,100 students arrested during the protests had been prosecuted.
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