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Cardinal Joseph Zen speaks with LifeSiteNews in New York on February 14, 2020Jim Hale/LifeSiteNews

UPDATE: Cardinal Zen has reportedly been released on bail, after he was arrested by Hong Kong police under the terms of the 2020 national security law. Hong Kong journalist Kris Cheng, who reported on Zen’s arrest, noted that the cardinal will be released on bail, along with the other three trustees of the 612 Fund arrested with him. 

The Financial Times also noted that Zen had been released on bail from Hong Kong’s Chai Wan Police Station.

Meanwhile, the fifth trustee of the 612 Fund, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who is already in jail for “illegal assemblies,” will be re-arrested, wrote Cheng. 

UPDATE: The Vatican has released a statement in response to the arrest of Cardinal Zen. This report has been updated accordingly.

HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, has reportedly been arrested by Hong Kong police.

Local news outlets report that according to “sources,” 90-year-old Cardinal Zen was arrested on May 11, along with the prominent former opposition legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and the singer Denise Ho Wan-sze for “allegedly colluding with foreign forces.”

A fourth individual, Xu Baoqiang, was arrested on the evening of May 10, as he was about to fly out of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong security police have allegedly arrested the four for their role as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The fifth trustee, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, is already in jail for “illegal assemblies” and has not been re-arrested, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Fund was established to offer “legal, medical, psychological and emergency financial assistance” to those involved in the 2019 protests against the government’s Extradition Law Amendment Bill, which would allow prisoners to be transferred to China for trial.

The Fund describes itself as “provid[ing] humanitarian and relevant financial support to persons who are injured, arrested, attacked, or threatened with violence during Anti-ELAB protests, including but not limited to the actions on 12th June.”

Cardinal Zen and his three fellow trustees have reportedly not yet been charged and are still being held for questioning. 

The arrest was reportedly made possible under the terms of Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, passed in 2020, and the police have been investigating the 612 Fund since September 2021, alleging that it breached the national security law. The 612 Fund announced in late 2021 that it would cease operations as of October 31, 2021, partly due to the new law, but also because the bank holding the money raised by donations to the Fund had “frozen” the money.

The national security law was enacted June 30, 2020, prompting mass protests among residents, and has been widely criticized by many, including pro-abortion Amnesty International. According to the BBC, the still-secret law  “criminalize[s] secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces.”

It can also “effectively curtail protests and freedom of speech” and applies to anyone on Hong Kong soil, regardless of citizenship.

Cardinal Zen previously confessed that he was prepared to go to prison under the terms of the new law, saying, “If right and proper words were considered against their law, I will endure all the suing, trials, and arrests.”

Speaking to EWTN in a 2020 interview, Cardinal Zen said the new law makes it easier for the Chinese Communist Party to go after city protestors and further erodes the independence of Hong Kong.

“I went through the whole text of the law,” Cardinal Zen told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo. “It’s easy to tell you in just one sentence: ‘Now they can do anything,’” he added.

“We are at the mercy of this new commission … We don’t have religious freedom because we don’t have freedom.”

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, released a statement in response to questioned posed by journalists regarding Cardinal Zen’s arrest. Bruni stated: “The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention.”

Cardinal Zen’s arrest will now place the Vatican and Pope Francis in a difficult situation. The cardinal has been a vocal critic and opponent of Francis’ secret deal with China, even accusing Francis of “encouraging a schism,” of “selling out the Catholic Church in China,” and styled the deal “an incredible betrayal.”

He also suggested that the Vatican’s silence over China’s long record of human rights’ abuses and persecution of the Church was perhaps an attempt “to establish diplomatic relations with (China),” he said.

READ: Pope Francis’ deal with Communist China has led to greater persecution of Catholics

Pope Francis then refused to meet with Cardinal Zen in September 2020, claiming he was “very busy,” despite the cardinal only having been allowed out of Hong Kong for 120 hours. The still-secret Vatican-China deal was renewed for a second term only a few weeks afterwards.

With the deal up for renewal once again this fall, China observers have suggested that Beijing’s influence over the Vatican is only growing. Earlier this year, the Vatican’s top ranking officials in both Taiwan and Hong Kong were removed within weeks of each other, and have yet to be replaced, prompting concerns that the Vatican could be looking to strengthen ties with China. 

For the Vatican to do so formally, it would necessarily have to cut ties with Taiwan and Hong Kong, as China does not recognize either as an independent.

It now remains to be seen what additional response the Vatican, or Pope Francis, will make to the arrest of Cardinal Zen.

Tyler’s Bishop Joseph Strickland joined Bishop Joseph Tobin in condemning the cardinal’s arrest

Also Lord Alton, a Patron of U.K. based Hong Kong Watch, called for international action in response to the arrests, saying the “international community…must accompany rhetoric with action to signal that Beijing will no longer be allowed to act with impunity and get away with such egregious injustice without consequence.”

Meanwhile, The Hill reported that White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also called on Chinese authorities to “immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, like the Cardinal Joseph Zen…and others arrested today.”

This story is developing..