Four former urban patrol officers in Chenzhou, Hunan province, were convicted of intentional injury, and one was sentenced to a maximum of 11 years in prison, for the death of a watermelon vendor in July.
Deng Zhengjia, the vendor from Linwu county in Chenzhou, died after a violent clash with the officers on July 17.
The four were charged with intentional injury at a court in neighbouring Yongxing county on Wednesday, and all were convicted. Liao Yongchang, the principal defendant, got 11 years in prison, the court said.
The three others - Yuan Cheng, Luo Weiping and Xia Jiyu - were sentenced to six years, four years and three-and-a-half years.
Deng Qingqiang, son of the vendor, was "very dissatisfied" with the verdict and said he would appeal it.
"My father's death hurts our family greatly. However, the four who were responsible are only facing light punishments. I will appeal until the murderers repay their lives for my father's death," he said.
He Wei, attorney for Liao Yongchang, said they had not yet decided whether to appeal.
According to the verdict, the four had conflicts with Deng and his wife as they assumed their duties on the morning of July 17 and Deng's wife verbally attacked them. Deng then used the bar of his scale to jab at Liao Yongchang, which ignited a brawl between the two parties.
The court said the four beat Deng, who later died of a brain hemorrhage and that their behaviour could be termed intentional injury.
Liao Yongqiang and Yuan Cheng were named the principal defendants in the case.