Cardinal Zen Faces Court in Hong Kong

Former Hong Kong Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen and five others have denied charges that they failed to register a relief fund to assist protesters who faced legal costs during the 2019 anti-government protests.

 Newsroom (25/05/2022 8:54 AM Gaudium Press) Cardinal Joseph Zen appeared in court in Hong Kong West Kowloon Court on Tuesday, a date which is the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

The 90-year-old former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong was charged in court on May 24, 2022, with four other prominent democracy advocates who were all trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

According to AFP, all five entered a plea of not guilty to failing to register the humanitarian fund with the police. 

For a first conviction, this charge can reportedly incur a fine of up to $1,274 but likely will not fall under Hong Kong’s national security law. The date set for Cardinal Zen’s trial is Sept. 19.

Father Joseph Chan, Hong Kong’s vicar general, was present in the courtroom, but the cleric told AFP that he was not their representative of the diocese.

Zen offered a Mass to pray for China on the night of May 24, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians.

Card. Zen was arrested by the authorities in Hong Kong on May 11 and was released on bail later on the same day.

Diplomats from Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, and other European countries were in the courtroom to attend Zen’s hearing.

The cardinal’s arrest earlier this month sparked reactions around the world. A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See “is following the development … with extreme attention.”

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White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called on Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to “cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and to immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, like the Cardinal Joseph Zen … and others arrested today.”

David Alton, an independent member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. parliament, described the cardinal’s arrest as “an act of outrageous intimidation.”

Pope Francis said in his Regina Coeli address on May 22 that he is praying for the Church in China and “attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors” there.

Without explicitly mentioning Zen by name, the pope called on people to pray for Catholics in China “so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquillity, might live in effective communion with the universal Church and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone.”

In recent years, scores of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under the National Security Law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020 following the protests, including veteran lawmaker Martin Lee and publisher Jimmy Lai. The law outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion and has been used to arrest over 150 people in the city.

Most of the city’s outspoken pro-democracy activists are either currently behind bars or have fled the city.

Pro-democracy news outlets such as Apple Daily and Stand News have been forced to close following national security investigations. Electoral laws have also been amended to ensure that only “patriots” are allowed to govern the city, effectively preventing pro-democracy supporters from taking office.

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Tiananmen Square massacre mass cancelled

On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said it would not hold Masses this year to mark the anniversary of a bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, over concerns that such events could violate the National Security Law.

In past years, events, Masses and candlelight vigils have been held in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary. Authorities have banned the annual candlelight vigil for the past two years, citing public health risks.

The Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office told the Hong Kong Free Press on May 24 that some staff and members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese had expressed concern about this year’s remembrance services, and thus the decision was made not to hold a remembrance Mass on June 4.

“Because frontline staff and some of the members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese are concerned about whether holding this even [sic] will be in breach of the implemented national security law, therefore [we] won’t hold a June 4th commemoration mass,” the office said.

(Via CNA and AP)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

 

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