Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia’s top Catholic clerics, and three others who helped run a now-disbanded Hong Kong fund for protesters, have been arrested for ‘colluding with foreign forces “, then released on bail. Zen, a 90-year-old former Hong Kong bishop, was interrogated for several hours Wednesday at Chai Wan police station near his religious residence, before being released on bail. The silver-haired Zen, wearing a white clerical collar, left without commenting to the media.
Local police said in a statement that the National Security Department of Police arrested two men and two women, between the ages of 45 and 90, on Tuesday and Wednesday for “colluding with foreign forces”. Police said they were suspected of asking for foreign sanctions. All were released on bail and their passports were confiscated under the national security law, police said.
A judicial source familiar with the matter previously told Reuters that five people had been arrested in connection with the case: Zen; lead attorney Margaret Ng, 74; pop activist and singer Denise Ho; former lawmaker Cyd Ho; and former scholar Hui Po-keung. Zen has long been an advocate for democratic causes in Hong Kong and mainland China and has spoken out against China’s growing authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping, including a Beijing-imposed national security law and the persecution of some Roman Catholics in China.
Hui had been arrested at the airport on Tuesday night, according to media reports, while Cyd Ho was already in jail for another case. The five were trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” which helped protesters who were arrested during pro-democracy and anti-China protests in 2019 with legal and medical bills.
VATICAN CONCERNED Hong Kong has long been one of Asia’s most important Catholic beachheads, home to an extensive network of aid agencies, scholars and missions that have supported Catholics in mainland China and elsewhere.
Beijing imposed the sweeping National Security Law in June 2020 which punishes terrorism, collusion with foreign forces, subversion and secession with a possible life sentence. The Vatican said on Wednesday it had learned “with concern” of the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen in Hong Kong and was following developments “with extreme attention”.
Reuters was unable to immediately reach the others for comment. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong had no immediate comment. The 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund was axed last year after a company that had helped receive donations through a bank account dissolved.
The arrests come after police said last September they had begun investigating the fund for alleged violations of national security law. US Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said the United States was concerned about “repression” in Hong Kong, including in religious and academic circles.
“All I can tell you is that I think we are increasingly troubled by the moves in Hong Kong to pressure and suppress civil society,” Campbell said at an online event. in Washington, questioned about the arrests. Hui, an associate professor of cultural studies at Lingnan University, had once taught exiled democracy activist Nathan Law.
“If you want to punish someone, you can always find an excuse,” Law wrote on his Facebook page in response to Hui’s arrest. Critics, including the United States, say the security law erodes freedoms China promised under a ‘one country, two systems’ deal when Hong Kong fell from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hong Kong authorities, however, say the law has brought stability to the city after mass protests in 2019.
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