Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen goes on trial over fund defending arrested protesters

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen goes on trial over fund defending arrested protesters

A 90-year-old Hong Kong cardinal will go on trial alongside 4 fellow democracy supporters on Monday over their function in operating a fund to assist defend individuals arrested in anti-government protests.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, certainly one of Asia’s highest-ranking Catholic clerics, was initially detained earlier this yr below a nationwide safety regulation that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong to quell dissent.

His arrest for “colluding with overseas forces” despatched shock waves via town’s Catholic group and renewed criticism of the Vatican’s warming ties with Beijing, together with from fellow senior clerics.

Police haven’t but charged Zen with a nationwide safety offence, which may carry as much as life in jail.

As an alternative, he and his fellow defendants, together with activist and singer Denise Ho and veteran human rights barrister Margaret Ng, are being prosecuted for the much less critical offence of failing to correctly register their defence fund as a society.

If convicted they face a nice of as much as HK$10,000 ($1,274) however no jail time. All have pleaded not responsible.

The Vatican has been muted on Zen’s arrest, saying it was involved and “following the event of the state of affairs very carefully”.

Pope Francis declined to touch upon Zen’s arrest when requested about it earlier this month, however stated he was decided to proceed pursuing a dialogue with Beijing.

Zen’s prosecution comes at a delicate time for the Vatican, which is working to resume its controversial settlement with Beijing later this yr over the appointment of bishops in China.

Zen was massively crucial, calling the deal a “sellout” of China’s underground Catholics.

Probably the most senior Catholic clerics to criticise the Vatican’s response to Zen’s arrest is German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller. “We deserted him,” Mueller informed the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero earlier this month, saying he was disillusioned {that a} current consistory – a gathering of cardinals in Rome – didn’t communicate in assist of Zen.

“I’d not need the silence of the consistory over Bishop Zen to disclose the truth that this cardinal might be sacrificed on the altar of cause, to defend and implement the diplomatic settlement with Beijing,” he stated. “I foresee this threat and I really feel ache.”

Zen’s group acted as trustees of a now defunct fund that helped pay authorized and medical prices for these arrested throughout big and typically violent democracy protests three years in the past.

China responded to these protests with a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

A majority of town’s most outstanding democracy activists at the moment are in jail or have fled abroad, whereas dozens of civil society teams have shuttered.

Some teams have been prosecuted for funding and registration irregularities, though a number of had functioned with out incident for years, together with the alliance that used to organise town’s annual Tiananmen crackdown vigils.

Hong Kong’s authorities says prosecutors are merely following the regulation.

Critics contend a type of “lawfare” has been launched to silence crucial teams and lavatory them down in costly authorized fights.

Zen’s 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund is charged with not correctly registering below the Societies Ordinance, a colonial-era regulation from 1911.

The fund disbanded after nationwide safety police demanded it hand over operational particulars together with details about its donors and beneficiaries.

The investigation was triggered when one of many defendants, cultural research scholar Hui Po-keung, was intercepted at Hong Kong’s airport on 20 Might 10 as he tried to depart to take up an instructional put up in Europe.

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