Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong found guilty of working with relief fund


A Hong Kong court on Friday found Cardinal Joseph Zen, the city’s most outspoken senior Roman Catholic cleric and bishop emeritus, guilty of failing to properly register a now-defunct humanitarian aid organization.

The verdict came after Zen’s arrest in May, along with the arrest of four other people. Under a 2020 national security law that imposed Beijing on suppressing dissent, all were charged with conspiring with a foreign entity while serving as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

The fund helped dozens of protesters arrested during the ongoing pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong three years ago. It provided financial assistance to individuals and paid for their legal and medical expenses.

Judge Ada Yim fined Zen 4,000 Hong Kong dollars ($512) for failing to register the fund under the Securities Ordinance, a 1911 colonial-era law. Due to the 2019 protests, Yim said the government has a responsibility to to regulate groups associated with political organizations, regardless of local or foreign affiliation, to “protect national security, public serenity and public order”.

Zen, 90, a leading critic of the Chinese Communist Party, appeared to be using a cane to earn a living as he faced court. He had not received a prison sentence for the charge.

“I hope this case is not linked to religious freedom,” Zen said after leaving court. “I am an advocate of humanitarian work.”

The other former trustees and a humanitarian fund secretary, including senior lawyer Margaret Ng, scholar Hui Po-keung and popular singer Denise Ho, were also found guilty and fined by Yim.

His arrest this spring provoked strong condemnation, including from the United States. The Vatican said it is “monitoring the evolution of the situation with extreme attention”. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong declined to comment on Friday.

The Church’s relations with China have raised concerns. In October, the Vatican renewed a controversial secret agreement with Beijing over the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China. The United States had expressed concern that such a scheme would further marginalize underground Chinese priests loyal to Rome.

Last week, China’s Catholic Church hosted a second online meeting with 50 Hong Kong priests to discuss how the Bible translation could properly convey exchanges about “sinization” — the influence of Chinese language, culture, and other social influences on non-Chinese societies. factors and standards.

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