As Cardinal Zen is Released on Bail, Holy See Watches ‘with concern’

Cardinal Joseph Zen has been released from police custody after his Wednesday evening arrest over charges related to a non-profit group of which Zen is a trustee. The Cardinal is charged with colluding with foreign powers.

Newsroom (13/05/2022 1:00 PM, Gaudium Press) Cardinal Zen could face life in prison if convicted of colluding with a foreign government in his pro-democracy advocacy. The charges are connected to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a now dormant charity that helped political arrestees in Hong Kong defray their legal expenses. Card. Zen, a trustee of the charity, was arrested alongside other Hong Kongers involved in the charity’s work.

Hong Kong journalists reported that Zen was released Wednesday after making bail; the Cardinal had been held at the Chai Wan Police Station. Hong Kong police retained Zen’s passport.

Shortly after the Cardinal’s arrest, the Holy See issued a statement saying that it was watching developments in Zen’s case “with concern.”

“The Holy See has learned with concern of the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the developments of the situation with extreme attention,” the Vatican’s press spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement to journalists on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, when asked for comments, Zhao Lijian from China’s Ministry of Foreign affairs stated that “we have noticed relevant reports. I want to stress that Hong Kong is a society with the rule of law where no organization or individual is above the law and all offenses shall be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law. We firmly oppose any act that denigrates the rule of law in Hong Kong and interferes in its affairs.”

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The arrest of the nonagenarian Cardinal Zen comes just months before the Vatican plans to renew its controversial agreement with the Chinese government on the status of the Church in China. It follows a steady stream of Chinese mainland arrests, detentions, and even disappearances of Catholic clergy, including bishops, who have refused to join the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Association, which requires acknowledging Communist Party authority over the Church.

Peter, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said that he saw the election of John Lee as the new Hong Kong chief executive on May 8 as a key reason behind the arrest of the 90-year-old Catholic Cardinal and other democracy supporters.

He suggested it was a gesture from Lee “that shows that he’s loyal to the party and he’s going to be tough on forces that are against the party.”

“So [Lee] wants to demonstrate that he is loyal” to Beijing and, at the same time, that “he is a man of action,” he said, noting there is a Chinese proverb that goes something like “a new governor has to show his muscle and strength.” Lee, a baptized Catholic, formerly served as Hong Kong’s security chief and “played a leading role in the crackdown on the pro-democracy protests.”

“This probably foretells that in the future Hong Kong will become less free, more controlled,” Peter said. “And the Catholic Church in Hong Kong as an organized institution will be carefully, closely watched.”

(Via the Pillar and CNA)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

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