Cardinal Joseph Zen Cardinal Joseph Zen  (AFP or licensors)

Cardinal Zen fined over fund defending protesters in Hong Kong

The 90-year-old Salesian Cardinal was fined after a court in Hong Kong found him guilty of failing to register the now-dissolved 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund to help pro-democracy activists. He was first arrested in May on charges of colluding with foreign forces.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

A $512 fine was imposed on Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, for his role in the now-dissolved fund established to aid participants of the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony.

The 90-year-old Cardinal was found guilty along with five other administrators, lawyer Margaret Ng, former congresswoman Cyd Ho, singer Denise Ho, professor Hui Po-keung and fund secretary Sze Ching-wee, for failing to register the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” founded to help those arrested pay legal and medical fees, properly with authorities.

Arrest in Hong Kong

Cardinal Zen and the five other defendants pleaded not guilty, but have not testified or called witnesses.

Further investigation into charges of collusion with foreign forces still looms, with penalties such as life imprisonment under the National Security Law passed in June 2020 after protests four years ago.

The same law requires any organization to register with the police at least a month before it is established; however, groups formed "exclusively for religious, charitable, social or recreational purposes" may be exempt from this requirement.

According to prosecutors, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund had to be registered as an organization that is political in nature, founded and run by multiple people.

Arrest in May

In September 2021, Cardinal Zen came under investigation after Hong Kong media outlets accused him of inciting students to rebel in 2019 against a series of government measures.

The Cardinal had then been arrested along with four other administrators on 10 May 2022, by police constituted to watch over China’s national security.

The official charge was “collusion with foreign forces” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

The group, including Cardinal Zen, were all released a few hours later on bail from the Wan Chai police station after being questioned.

On 11 May of this year, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said to journalists that "the Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen's arrest and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention."

The first hearing took place on the 19 September; the proceedings concluded on the 23 of the same month.

The Cardinal, who is usually active on social media, remained silent through the trial, only asking his followers to pray for him.

In the past, Cardinal Zen has also criticized the Chinese Communist Party for allegedly persecuting religious communities.

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25 November 2022, 12:11