Cardinal, 5 others on trial over Hong Kong protest fund
Hong Kong, Sep 26: A 90-year-old Catholic cardinal and five others went on trial in Hong Kong on Monday over their role in running a fund to help people arrested in large-scale anti-government protests three years ago.
Cardinal Joseph Zen — who is one of Asia's highest-ranking Catholic clerics — was first detained in May this year for "colluding with foreign forces" under a controversial national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong to clampdown on dissent.
While the cardinal and his five fellow defendants — including singer Denise Ho and barrister Margaret Ng — have not yet been charged with national security-related charges, they are being prosecuted for the offense of failing to properly register the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
The fund helped pay medical and legal bills for arrested protesters during the 2019 anti-government demonstrations. It ceased operations in August 2021.
All have pleaded not guilty.
If convicted they face a fine of up to HK$10,000 (€1,321, $1,274) but no prison time.
China's Catholic community shocked
Zen's arrest also sent shockwaves in the city's Catholic community and revived denunciation of the Vatican's warming relations with China.
The Vatican is working to renew its agreement with the government in Beijing over the appointment of bishops in China.
Under the deal, China recommends bishops which are then approved and appointed by the pope.
Zen has strongly condemned the agreement, calling it a "sell-out'' of China's "underground'' Catholics that are loyal to the Vatican.
The Vatican has remained silent on Zen's arrest, only saying that it was concerned and "following the development of the situation very closely."